Pixel Scroll 8/1/21 Scroll Them From Orbit—It’s The Only Way To Be Sure!

(1) CLARION WEST NEXT SUMMER. The lineup of instructors for Clarion West’s 2022 In-Person Summer Workshop has been announced. The Clarion West 2022 Six-Week Summer Workshop will take place from June 19 – July 30, 2022 in Seattle. Applications for the 2022 Summer Workshop open in December 2021. 

(2) CLARION WEST THIS FALL. Clarion West also previewed their Fall 2021 lineup of Online Classes & Workshops which includes “but is definitely not limited to” —

  • “Hiding the Infodump and Fluffing the Scenecraft” with Henry Lien,
  • “The Rule of Three” and writing trilogies with Fonda Lee,
  • A multi-session editing workshop with Cat Rambo,
  • Writing the modern Southern gothic with Eden Royce.

(3) BIPOC HORROR ANTHOLOGY KICKSTARTER IS LIVE. A Kickstarter appeal launched today to publish the anthology “Death in the Mouth: Original Horror By People of Color” edited by Sloane Leong and Cassie Hart. They have raised $4,086 of their $35,000 goal in the first twelve hours. The fundraiser continues until September 1.

(4) DRAGON CON ISSUES GUIDELINES. Today Dragon Con announced everyone will wear masks at the con: “Updates – Dragon Con”. There are some additional rules about room capacity and traffic flow at the link.

Face masks and reduced attendance

Appropriate face masks will be required at all times inside convention venues regardless of vaccination status, in keeping with updated CDC guidelines and City of Atlanta requirements.

In 2021, Dragon Con will have reduced capacity from prior years. We have worked closely with our hotels and AmericasMart to determine how many people are permitted in the buildings each day and at a given time and taken further steps to reduce capacity to allow for personal spacing.

They also will have limits on their traditional parade and who can view it live:

We have received our parade permit and at this time will host a modified and scaled back parade. A Dragon Con membership is required to view the parade live and in person for 2021. All others can watch the parade on CW69, our broadcast partner, or on line at YouTube and other social media platforms.

(5) NOT JUST ANYBODY CAN DO IT. Delilah S. Dawson shared some behind-the-scenes info about writing IP books. Thread starts here. (Am I wrong to equate these with media tie-in books? Today was my first encounter with the “IP books” term.)

(6) CONVERSATION WITH ISHIGURO. The Washington Post ran an abridged version of this interview with Sir Kazuo Ichiguro, but here’s a full transcript from Nashville Public Television.

Ishiguro: I can’t imagine what kind of person or what kind of writer I’d be if I hadn’t experienced parenthood. It’s not just the actual hardcore experiences that you have, worrying about your child’s exams and stuff like that. Your perspective shifts. Many, many people will tell you this. Your perspective shifts. Emotionally, intellectually, you look at the world differently. I think your perspective becomes longer as well. You’re not just looking at things in your own lifetime. You see things in terms of your child’s lifetime, your grandchildren’s lifetime, your great grandchildren’s lifetime. The way you look at life, our existence, everything seems to change. And it changes at that kind of empathetic, emotional level.

Occasionally I come across writers who say if you have children it messes up your career. I think this is a profound mistake, unless you think a writing career is just about sitting down and producing a certain quantity of writing.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

August 1, 1928 — Ninety-three years ago on this date, Buck Rogers (then named Anthony Rogers) makes his first appearance in the “Armageddon 2419 A.D” novella by Philip Francis Nowlan who would later become a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. It was published in the August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories, edited by Hugo Gernsback. A sequel novella called “The Airlords of Han” was published in the March 1929 issue of Amazing Stories. Fifty years later, they would become a single novel as editor Donald A. Wollheim of Ace Books had them combined into one narrative. Spin-offs from the novel would include a Thirties newspaper comic strip, a Thirties Buck Rogers in the 25th Century radio program, a Thirties movie serial Buck Rogers, a Seventies television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century film.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 1, 1862 M.R. James. Writer of some of the best ghost stories ever done. A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings, released in 2001 from Ash-Tree Press has forty stories which includes the thirty stories from Collected Ghost Stories plus the 3 tales published after that, and the seven from The Fenstanton Witch and Others. It’s apparently the most complete collection of his stories to date. Or so I though until I checked online. The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James, over seven hundred pages, is available from the usual suspects for a mere buck ninety nine! (Died 1936.)
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May, 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available from the usual suspects. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 1, 1930 Geoffrey Holder. You’ll likely best remember him for his performance as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die but he’s also the narrator in Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. He was also Willie Shakespeare in Doctor Doolittle but it’s been so long since I saw the film that I can’t picture his character. And he was The Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland that had Richard Burton as The White Knight. Weird film that. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 1, 1941 Craig Littler, 80. His main genre role was as space adventurer Jason in Jason of Star Command which of course James Doohan was in.  If you looked closely you’ll spot him briefly in Blazing Saddles as Tex and Rosemary’s Baby as Jimmy as well. And he has one-offs in The Next BeyondAirWolf and Team Knight Rider.
  • Born August 1, 1945 Yvonne Rousseau. Australian author, editor and critic. She edited the Australian Science Fiction Review in the late Eighties. She wrote one work of non-fiction, Minmers Marooned and Planet of the Marsupials: The Science Fiction Novels of Cherry Wilder, and has a handful of stories to her name. She got nominated for three Ditmar Awards for her fan writing. (Died 2021.)
  • Born August 1, 1955 Annabel Jankel, 66. Director who was first a music video director and then the co-creator and director of Max Headroom. She and her partner Rocky Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show, a mix of interviews and music vids which aired on Channel 4 (UK) (where it was sponsored by Coca-Cola) and HBO. Jankel and Morton would go on to direct Super Mario Bros. And they’re both responsible for the Max Headroom movie and series. 
  • Born August 1, 1979 Jason Momoa, 42. I knew I’d seen him before he showed up as Aquaman in the DC film franchise and I was right as he was Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis for its entire run. He was also Khal Drogo in the first season of A Game of Thrones. And not surprisingly, he was the title character in the recent Conan the Barbarian film.
  • Born August 1, 1993 Tomi Adeyemi, 28. Nigerian born author. She won a Lodestar Award at Dublin 2019 for her Children of Blood and Bone novel which also won her an Andre Norton Award. That novel was nominated for a BFA, a Kitchie and a Nommo.  Her latest in that series is Children of Virtue and Vengeance

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Marmaduke entertains a visitor from outer space.

(10) HAMMER HAND. Here’s one we can all play. Entertainment Earth asked: “What character NOT from the Marvel universe do you think would be worthy of wielding Mjolnir?”

Paul Weimer tweeted a great set of answers (Atticus Finch!!) See what you can do.

(11) OOPS. H&I points out “10 Minor Goofs You Never Noticed In ‘Star Trek'”.

4. A WOODEN STARSHIP

“Errand of Mercy”

In the opening, as the Enterprise is attacked by a Klingon vessel, you can see that the floor behind Nimoy has not been painted. The bare wood is exposed on the elevated part of the bridge.

(12) UMBRELLA ARRIVING. This video announces that Mary Poppins will be reopening in London on August 7. (Petula Clark as the Bird Woman – where has the time gone? Petula was singing pop hits when the ancient Jane Darwell played that character in the original Disney movie.)

Mary Poppins is back in London! Whipping the barriers off the Prince Edward Theatre, Zizi Strallen prepares to return to wowing London audiences. Leading the show are the previously announced Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins and Charlie Stemp as Bert, joined by Charlie Anson as George Banks, Amy Griffiths as Winifred Banks, Petula Clark as Bird Woman, Liz Robertson as Miss Andrew, Claire Machin as Mrs Brill, Jack North as Robertson Ay and Paul F Monaghan as Admiral Boom and Bank Chairman.

(13) BIRD BRAINS. “Big brains may have helped birds survive dinosaur-killing asteroid”Yahoo! has the latest speculation.

Just a few million years before an asteroid killed nearly all dinosaurs on Earth, a creature resembling a small albatross with teeth flew through the Cretaceous skies. The creature, known as Ichthyornis, is considered an early bird — but not part of the lucky lineage that survived the mass extinction and gave rise to modern birds.

Now, a newly discovered Ichthyornis fossil sheds light on why some early birds survived the asteroid-triggered catastrophe known as the K-Pg extinction, while close relatives like Ichthyornis perished. The key may have been a vastly expanded forebrain — a trait that all modern birds possess, but Ichthyornis and other extinct lineages lack….

(14) TINY EFFECTS. “Dorset photographer shoots Star Wars Lego in cinematic style”BBC News shares an intriguing video at the link.

Not content with merely building his Star Wars Lego kits, photographer Daniel Sands has found another use for his collection.

The 34-year-old Dorset photographer tested his creativity during lockdown by putting his models into the action of the movie universe.

He said he uses everyday items such as baking soda and the ashes from his barbecue to give his pictures a cinematic look.

Creative or realistic toy photography is a growing trend on social media, and Star Wars star Mark Hamill has even liked one of his posts.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Sloan Leong, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 7/28/21 So Put Another File In The Jukebox, Baby

(1) MORE’S HAPPENING THAN WHAT’S ON THE PAGE. Aigner Loren Wilson is “Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanfuturist Universe” at Tor.com.

…Though not all of the stories take place in Africa, they all speak to the same African future that Okorafor is creating and envisioning. Sometimes this future is at the nexus of American industrialism and the exploitation of Africans like in The Book of Phoenix, in which Okorafor shows the rage and anger of a child used and experimented on. Sometimes her stories show the aftermath of such greed. In Who Fears Death, Okorafor writes of the strife of Sudan and the resilience of its people through the story of Onyesonwu. Readers watch her grow from an infant to a powerful being with the ability to save and heal a whole people. Though the landscapes change, the heart of an Africanfuturist universe is being carved out within these books. Eventually in Binti, Africa reaches the stars by way of the character literally running away so she can be the first of her people to attend a top intergalactic school. Binti is the future of her people, carrying the weight of all the past struggles of them and herself—the histories both told and not….

(2) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. The Booker Prize 2021 longlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)
  • A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)
  • Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)

The shortlist will be announced September 14, and the winner on November 3.

(3) COMPLICATED Q&A. LeVar Burton was interviewed by David Marchese in the July 4 New York Times Magazine.  It’s mostly about his Jeopardy! stint, but he also discusses his 1997 sf novel Aftermath, which has recently been reprinted. “LeVar Burton’s Quest to Succeed Alex Trebek”

…Forgive me for making the subtext of these questions the text, but I’m trying to see if we can complicate the image of you as almost a secular pop-culture saint like Alex Trebek or Fred Rogers. And one of the things that I came across that maybe does complicate things is your novel, “Aftermath.”5

[5 Published in 1997, Burton’s only novel to date is a dystopian story about a United States recovering from a series of catastrophic events, including violent racial conflicts after the assassination of the nation’s first Black president-elect by a white extremist.]

 Wow. I love talking to people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m enormously proud of it. I just recorded a digital version of it with a new author’s note. I threw out the old author’s note about how I came to be a science-fiction fan and instead addressed the time in which we find ourselves now and some of the ways in which the events at the beginning of the novel are kind of prescient.

I don’t really know how well the book sold, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s obscure. Is it possible that the public wasn’t eager to accept the side of your sensibility that it represented? I was surprised by the violence, the allusions to sexual assault — just the darkness in it. 

I would venture to say, based on some encounters that I have had on Twitter, that there is a population of people who aren’t willing to see me displaying an aspect of my character that perhaps goes against their idea of who I am. They feel like they have the right to opine on who I should be, what I should and should not say. That’s an interesting part of this dynamic of fame. However, I spent a lot of time and energy discovering, defining, divining who I am and how I want to live my life. What you do with what I put out there is your business. What I put out there is my business….

(4) AFTER ACTION REPORT. At Green Book of the White Downs, Tim Bolton’s “Thoughts on the release of the Tolkien Society Summer Seminar videos and push-back against the online small-minded backlash around the event” includes links to “an outpouring of writing focused on the reception of Tolkien’s work and finding representation to identify with in Tolkien’s words” plus “numerous blog posts about LGBT+ and Tolkien.”

…A couple of weeks ago, as we headed towards what would be a fantastic and thoughtful Tolkien Society Summer Seminar, it came apparent that a part of the Tolkien fandom were quite vocally angry that diversity should be a topic associated with Tolkien. We saw a rival conference set up (as if other conferences have ever been a bad thing), we saw podcasts and YouTube rants. Social media saw the same people posting angrily about the affront that the Tolkien Society were holding a seminar – not sure where these lot have been, the Tolkien Society have hosted seminars every year for longer than some of them were born….    

This is the Tolkien Society seminar whose announced schedule was used by some bloggers as an excuse to act out – “Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire” – including pitching a dubious rival event: “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”.

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

…Here’s the thing. No matter how far back these cave trolls want to try and drag us, we (as a fandom and a society) are going to move forward. We are diverse, we are inclusive. Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But I will stand by groups that at their core hold values such empathy, kindness and being welcoming to all.

And at the centre of it all – our love of Tolkien’s works.

(5) DOG AT LARGE. Joseph Tuttle introduces readers to “’Roverandom:’ Tolkien’s little-known children’s story” at Voyage.

Roverandom is the endearing tale of a little dog’s adventures after being turned into a toy by a wizard. Tolkien originally told this story to his children after one of them had lost a toy dog on vacation. After searching for the lost toy unsuccessfully, Tolkien devised Roverandom to help explain what happened to the toy. Years later, he put the story into the book format we now have….

(6) LUMPY LOKI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Fiona Sturges interviews Richard E Grant about his role on Loki.

Grant hams it up terrifically as Classic Loki, one of several ‘variant’ Lokis marooned in a purgatory known as ‘The Void’ (other variants include Alligator Loki and Kid Loki.)  When he first saw his costume — scoffed-grubby-with clear sagging in the crotch area — he was a little crestfallen.  ‘My first question was, ‘Where are the muscles?’  If you look at Jack Kirby’s original drawings in the comic, the guy had muscles.  But the costume designer was very insistent that I was relying on Loki magic (for strength). So I didn’t get my way.  I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a withered and old Classic Loki that they’re going to get!’

The role also required Grant to grapple with CGI and green screen technology.  He notes that in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, in which he played Allegiant General Pryde, ‘ all the doors were functional, all the lights on the consoles worked, and there were stormtroopers’  By contrast, in Loki, his alligator co-star was made of three cushions roughly sewn together. 

(7) METAVERSE MAVEN. The Verge says “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse” – so I guess I’d better start figuring out what that’s supposed to be.

As June came to an end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.

The company’s divisions focused on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality would increasingly work to realize this vision, he said in a remote address to employees. “What I think is most interesting is how these themes will come together into a bigger idea,” Zuckerberg said. “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Earlier this month, The New York Times explored how companies and products including Epic Games’ FortniteRoblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons increasingly had metaverse-like elements. (Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been discussing his desire to contribute to a metaverse for many months now.)…

(8) SECOND BANANAS WITH MORE APPEAL. James Davis Nicoll points out “Five Supporting Characters Who Outshine the Protagonist” at Tor.com.

Sergeant Sam Anderson from Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein (1953)

Had runaway Max Jones never met Sam Anderson, late of the Imperial Marines, Max’s plans to follow his late uncle Chester into space would have come to nothing. Chester may have been a member in good standing of the Astrogators’ Guild, but he never signed the necessary paperwork nominating Max for membership. As far as the Guild is concerned, that is that.

Sam, on the other hand, has the ethical flexibility, experience, and connections needed to circumvent onerous regulation. Thanks to Sam’s experienced mentorship, Max acquires all the necessary papers needed to work in space and a position on board the Asgard. Max’s odd talents will prove invaluable when the Asgard is lost in space. Those talents would never have been there to help the Asgard without genially amoral Sam’s corrupting influence.

(9) HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY. Filer Jake says at the Something Awful forums someone has posted a Polaroid picture from 1989 in which a paperback book, believed to be SF, can be seen, and asked “What is that book?”

We’re seriously stumped, to the point where I’ve been trawling a copy of the ISFDB to get titles that might be of the same length as the one in the picture, and am also considering downloading their cover DB so as to do some heavy-duty image analysis.

I’m hoping that you’d be willing to add this as an item in a Pixel Scroll, as in the words of the original asker “Why should we be the only ones to be haunted by this?”

This is the picture. You can see why they’re having so much trouble figuring out the answer. But maybe the pattern of the cover will tickle something in your memory banks?

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 28, 2007 – On this date fourteen years ago, Jekyll, a British series produced as a sequel to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella, finishes airing on BBC One. Steven Moffat wrote all six episodes with Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey each directing three episodes. Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor were the producers. It starred James Nesbitt in the lead role with the rest of the cast being Gina Bellman, Paterson Joseph, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar. Critics loved it with James Jackson of The Times saying Nesbitt’s acting as Hyde was “entertainingly over the top as a dozen Doctor Who villains, with a palpable sense of menace to boot”.  A second season was written by Moffat but the BBC never picked up the option on it. Eight years later, ITV would air Jekyll and Hyde based off the same source material and it too would cancelled after one series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second-to-none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 93. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says.  I will note that Jay Kay was a published author of three stories, “Century of Progress”, “Mass Communication“ and  “On Conquered Earth”.  The first two in Analog, the latter in If. None of these have been republished since.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous LizardThe Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 66. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and  and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 55. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. (They were CoNZealand GoHs last year.) He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 53. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed up as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1972 Elizabeth Berkley, 49. Her best known role is Verhooven’s Showgirls which is decidedly not genre even if Kyle MacLachan is in it. She’s done some genre work including The Twilight ZonePerversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these Birthday notes. 

(12) SJW CREDENTIAL BUNDLE. StoryBundle’s 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is available for three more weeks. Get the full list of books and the rest of the deal at the link.

This bundle thrills me. Often, I curate StoryBundles filled with books I’ve read. Always, I curate with authors whose work I like. But as I curate them, I’m aware that I am a moody reader who rarely wants to read what’s prescribed. So, with the books I have only read parts of or haven’t read at all, I put them in a To-Be-Read pile to finish when the mood strikes.

With cat fiction, though, the mood always strikes me. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to read a cat story. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll do whatever I’m doing, unless I’m petting one of my three cats.

Many of the books in this bundle combine cats and magic. It seems a proper combination. Cats can twist themselves into the strangest positions. They have an uncanny way of loving us or torturing us (depending on how they feel about us). They have a mysterious edge, even if they’re the friendliest cat on the planet.

(13) LOCKDOWN WAS GOOD BUSINESS FOR THEM. Game makers are getting an unexpected slice of the pie. The Guardian has the story: “Warhammer maker Games Workshop hands staff £5,000 bonus after lockdown sales surge”.

Warhammer retailer Games Workshop is handing its shop workers, model makers, designers and support staff a £5,000 bonus each after sales and profits benefited from tabletop gamers escaping lockdown by fighting bloodthirsty battles with orcs, elves and alien hordes.

The Nottingham-based company behind the popular fantasygaming equipment and Lord of the Rings figurines said its 2,600 ordinary workers would split a £10.6m special bonus on top of a £2.6m profit share.

Senior managers will share an extra £1.1m bonus pot, up from £300,000 the year before, after sales rose by just over a third to £361m and pretax profits soared almost 70% to £151m….

(14) WITCHER SPINOFF. This trailer for a Witcher anime spinoff dropped on Wednesday. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

The world of The Witcher expands in this anime origin story: Before Geralt, there was his mentor Vesemir — a swashbuckling young witcher who escaped a life of poverty to slay monsters for coin. But when a strange new monster begins terrorizing a politically-fraught kingdom, Vesemir finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to confront the demons of his past.

(15) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Dr. Brian Keating, Co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, who also is a member of the Galileo Project’s Advisory Board, is joined by Harvard University Professor Avi Loeb to chat about the Galileo Project in “Extraterrestrial Technology: The Situation Has Changed!” on YouTube.

Huge news out of Harvard: In 2017, the world for the first time observed an interstellar object, called ‘Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our Solar system. Based on astronomical observations, ‘Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations. We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never seen before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish, which fits the astronomical data rather well.

After the release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically & transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment. The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science & on our entire worldview would be enormous.

Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs), and that science should not dogmatically reject potential extraterrestrial explanations because of social stigma or cultural preferences, factors which are not conducive to the scientific method of unbiased, empirical inquiry. We now must look through new telescopes, both literally and figuratively. The Galileo Project aims to identify the nature of UAP and ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

1. Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.

We anticipate extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches to differentiate atmospheric phenomena from birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones, and from potential technological objects of terrestrial or other origin surveying our planet, such as satellites. For the purpose of high contrast imaging, each telescope will be part of a detector array of orthogonal and complementary capabilities from radar, Doppler radar, and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to high-resolution, large camera visible range and infrared band telescopes. If an ETC is discovered to be surveying Earth using UAP, then we have to assume that the ETC has mastered passive radar, optical and infrared technologies. In such a case, our systematic study of such detected UAP will be enhanced by means of high-performance, integrated and multi-wavelength detector arrays.

2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects:  

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory, to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system. We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.

3. Search for Potential ETC Satellites: Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

(16) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. The Expanse was a Jeopardy! clue. I can prove it. (Do we still call this a screenshot?)

(17) TRAILER FOR A PROMISED FAN FILM. Strap in for a fun Star Wars fan film from writer/director Anthony Ferraro, Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master. “The goal was to make a fan film driven by dramatic performances rather than winks and nods to the franchise. But not to worry, we do some winking and nodding,” Ferraro promises. The video launches August 6 on the Create Sci-Fi YouTube channel.

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

A forsaken Mandalorian hunts down a Hutt Courier to recover an asset that unexpectedly leads him to team up with an outcast drunken Jedi Master to fulfill his sworn duty.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, N., Jake, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/4/21 You Can’t Make Good Omenlets Without Breaking Bad

(1) NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL 2021. The Library of Congress’ “10-Day National Book Festival for 2021” will include appearances by genre figures Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Roxane Gay, Kazuo Ishiguro and more.

The initial lineup of 2021 National Book Festival authors includes Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Roxane Gay, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael J. Fox (pictured clockwise)

The theme of this year’s festival is “Open a Book, Open the World.” Audiences will be invited to create their own festival experiences from programs in a range of formats and an expanded schedule over 10 days from September 17-26.. “Create Your National Book Festival Experience Over 10 Days in Multiple Formats”.

The lineup includes authors, poets and illustrators from America and around the world:

  • Kacen Callender
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Tana French
  • Roxane Gay
  • Nikki Giovanni
  • Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Adam Grant
  • Yaa Gyasi
  • Maria Hinojosa
  • Mishal Husain
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Chang-rae Lee
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Christopher Paolini
  • Sarah Pearse
  • Mary Roach
  • Marcus Samuelsson
  • Angie Thomas
  • Diane von Fürstenberg
  • Martha Wells
  • Isabel Wilkerson

(2) OR MAYBE OLLY WON’T BE THE DOCTOR. Olly Alexander’s manager dismissed rumors that her client is replacing Jodie Whittaker in a pun-filled Instagram reports Digital Spy. “It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander responds to Doctor Who rumours”.

Tabloid reports claimed over the weekend that the Years & Years singer was taking over the role of the iconic Time Lord, following previous speculation that Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker will be leaving at the end of the next series.

However, it seems like Olly won’t be travelling in the TARDIS anytime soon….

(3) FANS SAY YES, CRITICS SAY NO. Yahoo! has a roundup of the responses to The Tomorrow War: “Chris Pratt’s ‘The Tomorrow War’ Panned as ‘Garbage Pizza’ and ‘Starship Troopers for Dummies’ by Critics”.

… Chris Pratt’s latest ode to his inner “action star,” Amazon Prime’s “The Tomorrow War,” is fighting its own battle with critics, who decry it as everything from “the garbage pizza of science-fiction films” to a “mediocre straight white savior fantasy in which the protagonist is…f—ing stupid.”

“The Tomorrow War” made its debut on Amazon Prime on Friday and is currently sitting at a lukewarm 53% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with the audience review topping off at a more positive 80%. The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz calls it “Starship Troopers for dummies,” adding, “If I had a time machine, I’d punt myself to the past just before ‘The Tomorrow War’ went into production, and save everyone the trouble,” while Brian Lowry of CNN admits the picture has a “certain appeal,” “but strands its star in a pretty uninspired time and place.”…

(4) THE VIRAL CURTAIN. Darius Hupov is the coordinator of the first Eastern European SciFi Anthology. The Viral Curtain is the 2021 edition, and has short stories from 11 countries. All the details about the anthology, including the short stories and authors, are at the Eastern European SFF Anthology project website.

The anthology premiered in June at the  Refesticon Fantasy Festival in Bijelo Pojle, Montenegro. And this month it will also be present at the Eurocon in Fiugi (in printed format) and (so they hope) at the Worldcon (in ebook format).

Here are the countries, authors, and stories represented in the anthology.

Here are Cristian Vicol, cover designer, Darius Hupov, anthology coordinator, Adrian Chifu, graphic designer for the image on the cover, in Union Square, Timisoara, Romania).

(5) THE TEN PERCENTERS. “Why do writers need agents? To keep track of the rejections” author Chris Paling tells The Guardian.

That 10% fee buys a novelist like me more than the chance of a big book deal – from a hand with the DIY to a shoulder to cry on after yet another knockback…

…A few weeks after the sudden death of my agent, Deborah Rogers, in 2014 the colleague deputed to take me on phoned. “I’ve found something in Deborah’s desk.”

“Yes?”

“A letter from you. To you.”

“Ah.”

“It looks like she’d read it. Remember it?”

Of course I remembered it. Frustrated after months of trying to get a response to a novel, I had written a letter to myself, enclosed a self-addressed envelope, and asked her to tick the appropriate response: “Novel read”, “novel needs work”, “novel submitted”, “novel sold for a: £1,000, b: £10,000, c: £100,000”. Petty-minded and, given her support and encouragement over the years, unforgivable. But, being Deborah, she took it well….

(6) YOUTH WILL BE SERVED. The Hollywood Reporter revisits Logan’s Run with Michael York, the actor who played the title character, book co-author William Nolan, and others in “Run, Runner! ‘Logan’s Run’ Star Michael York Shares New Tales on Film’s 45th Anniversary”.

… The then 33-year-old Englishman was cast to play Logan 5 (Yes, he loves the age irony) whose job as a member of the elite police unit called “Sandmen” is to track down and terminate “Runners,” aka those who try to avoid the ritualistic “Carrousel” where they will be euthanized to control the dome-encased population in the year 2274. Logan’s overindulged existence is divine — until through a series of events he is forced to become a Runner.

The Three Musketeers and Cabaret star initially had zero interest in the enormous sci-fi project, recalling that he was in Los Angeles at the time, starring in the play Ring Around the Moon at the Ahmanson Theatre. One day, a script arrived with Anderson attached to direct: Logan’s Run. York assures he had wanted to work with the director again after their collaboration on Conduct Unbecoming (1975). But after one look, York felt he was wrong for the film and was prepared to pass. 

“I was so stupid,” York says, with laughter. “But, fortunately, there was a younger actor in the company who had been delegated to drive me from Beverly Hills to the Ahmanson, and we became friends. He asked if he could read the script and I said, ‘of course.’ The next morning, he turned up — actually wagging a finger at me — and said ‘You’ve got to do this! You don’t understand. It’s pressing all my buttons!’ So I owe that actor a good deal. I went to MGM and suddenly, I was doing it.” 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 4, 1996 — Twenty five years ago in the United Kingdom on this day, Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich.  The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid seventy five percent rating. It was up for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2 but that went instead to Babylon 5  for the “Severed Dreams” episode. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 4, 1883 — Rube Goldberg. Not genre, but certainly genre adjacent as I could argue that MacGyver is direct descendent of him. Born Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, he was a sculptor, author, cartoonist, engineer, and inventor who’s certainly best known for his very popular cartoons showing overly complex machines doing simple tasks in terribly convoluted manners hence the phrase “Rube Goldberg machines.” The X-Files episode titled “The Goldberg Variation” involved an apartment rigged as a Goldberg machine. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1901 — Guy Endore. American novelist and screenwriter whose 1933 The Werewolf of Paris novel holds the same position in werewolf literature as does Dracula does for vampire literature. It was filmed as The Curse of The Werewolf for which he wrote the screenplay. Stableford also praises his horror story, “The Day of the Dragon.” He worked on the screenplay for Mark of the Vampire starring Bella Lugosi. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1910 — Gloria Stuart. She was cast as Flora Cranley opposite Claude Rains in The Invisible Man in 1933, and 68 years later she played Madeline Fawkes in The Invisible Man series. She was in The Old Dark House as Margaret Waverton which is considered horror largely because Boris Karloff was in it. And she was in the time travelling The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 4, 1931 — Stephen Boyd. He only had one genre role that you will remember, that of Grant in Fantastic Voyage. (That’s assuming you’re not watching Raquel Welch.)  He’d later show up in Lady Dracula as Count Dracula. (Died 1977.)
  • Born July 4, 1949 — Peter Crowther, 72. He is the founder (with Simon Conway) of PS Publishing where he’s editor now. He edited a series of genre anthologies that DAW published. And he’s written a number of horror novels of which I’d say After Happily Ever and By Wizard Oak are good introductions to him. He’s also done a lot of short fiction but I see he’s really available in digital form for much of short fiction or novels at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born July 4, 1960 — Joyce Agu, 61. Background characters are fascinating. She played Ensign Gates on the Next Generation, a role she did for forty seven episodes! She later showed up as an Excelsior crew member in The Undiscovered Country thought it’s not certain it’s the same character. 
  • Born July 4, 1977 — David Petersen, 44. Writer and illustrator of the brilliant Mouse Guard series. If you haven’t read it, do so — it’s that good. It almost got developed as a film but got axed due to corporate politics. IDW published The Wind in The Willows with over sixty of his illustrations several years back. 
  • Born July 4, 1989 — Emily Coutts, 32. She plays the role of helmsman Keyla Detmer on Discovery. She’s also her mirror universe counterpart, who is the first officer of that universe’s Shenzhou. (I like the series and am definitely looking forward to it when it jump a thousand years into the future next season!) She was in one episode of the SF series Dark Matter and in Crimson Peak, a horror film but that’s it for genre appearances.

(9) VISIONS QUEST. “’Star Wars: Visions’ unveils special look at anime anthology”SYFY Wire has the breakdown.

…Coming to Disney+ this September, Star Wars: Visions is a anthology of anime shorts produced by some of the most preeminent animation studios in Japan like Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio (Twin Engine), Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru, and Production IG…. 

(10) HE’S DEAD – ISN’T HE, JIM? The pandemic also complicated the business of freezing the brains of dead people who hope to be revived in the future: “The Cryonics Industry Would Like to Give You the Past Year, and Many More, Back” in the New York Times.

When an 87-year-old Californian man was wheeled into an operating room just outside Phoenix last year, the pandemic was at its height and medical protocols were being upended across the country.

A case like his would normally have required 14 or more bags of fluids to be pumped into him, but now that posed a problem.

Had he been infected with the coronavirus, tiny aerosol droplets could have escaped and infected staff, so the operating team had adopted new procedures that reduced the effectiveness of the treatment but used fewer liquids.

It was an elaborate workaround, especially considering the patient had been declared legally dead more than a day earlier.

He had arrived in the operating room of Alcor Life Extension Foundation — located in an industrial park near the airport in Scottsdale, Ariz. — packed in dry ice and ready to be “cryopreserved,” or stored at deep-freeze temperatures, in the hope that one day, perhaps decades or centuries from now, he could be brought back to life.

As it turns out, the pandemic that has affected billions of lives around the world has also had an impact on the nonliving.

From Moscow to Phoenix and from China to rural Australia, the major players in the business of preserving bodies at extremely low temperatures say the pandemic has brought new stresses to an industry that has long faced skepticism or outright hostility from medical and legal establishments that have dismissed it as quack science or fraud.

In some cases, Covid-19 precautions have limited the parts of the body that can be pumped full of protective chemicals to curb the damage caused by freezing.

Alcor, which has been in business since 1972, adopted new rules in its operating room last year that restricted the application of its medical-grade antifreeze solution to only the patient’s brain, leaving everything below the neck unprotected…

(11) LOTR TV PRODUCTION ISSUES. The New Zealand Herald reports “Stunt workers’ fury over Lord of the Rings injuries”.

At least three stunt workers on Amazon Studios’ $1 billion The Lord of the Rings television production being filmed in Auckland have been seriously injured — and one has resulted in a $500,000 payment.

Several sources on the set of the most expensive TV show ever produced say they don’t believe their concerns about safety standards are being treated seriously enough after at least two injuries requiring surgery were not proactively reported to WorkSafe.

The Weekend Herald has spoken to four workers who believe a senior stunt supervisor has created an uneasy environment which has contributed to an unsafe workplace.

However, Amazon Studios insists safety is a “top priority” and the company has fulfilled its responsibilities according to New Zealand’s workplace safety guidelines.

In March, world-class Kiwi stuntwoman Dayna Grant suffered a head injury on The Lord of the Rings set at West Auckland’s Kumeu Studios.

After undergoing scans Grant was diagnosed with an 8mm brain aneurysm and an upper spinal injury.

Grant’s head injury was not reported to WorkSafe NZ by Amazon because the company said it did not meet the threshold for reporting.

The Weekend Herald is also aware of two other stunt workers who have left the LOTR production after an injury on set, and a third who departed for mental health reasons.

WorkSafe also did not learn of a serious injury to Australian stuntwoman Elissa Cadwell in February last year until after it was reported by the Weekend Herald.

It is understood Amazon paid her about $500,000 after her injury. This payment was reportedly in part to help Cadwell get back home and settled in Australia and was not an admission of guilt by Amazon.

Amazon gave a blanket denial to The Wrap in “Amazon Says Allegations of ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series’ ‘Unsafe’ Stunt Conditions Are ‘Completely Inaccurate’” available at Yahoo! The piece, in addition, includes many details about the production of the new series.

…Amazon and production company GSR Productions’ safety protocols for “The Lord of the Rings” series include a safety team of 21 full-time and six-to-eight part-time crew members — made up of safety supervisors, medics, nurses and EMTs — to be on set, the insider tells TheWrap. Additionally, a paramedic team is brought in for activity that has a heightened level of risk, such as horse riding and fires.

Per the individual, “The Lord of the Rings” TV series produces job safety analysis reports for every location and each individual shoot day, and all activities with any higher perceived risk have additional risk analysis reports.

Any injury or suspected injury that occurs on set and is not able to be 100% diagnosed and treated on site is referred to the appropriate medical facility or transported by ambulance, the insider says. Standard operating procedure is that all head injuries, however minor, are transported to the appropriate medical facility.

Per the source, though only “notifiable” injuries are reported to WorkSafe, Amazon records all incidents and “near misses” and these reports are analyzed to look for patterns, repetition, or any similarities at all that may indicate systemic, environmental, equipment or personnel issues contributing to incidents/accidents.

“The Lord of the Rings” TV series’ safety department operates under a confidential and “no fault” system, where any crew, cast, or member of the public can report anything of concern, or any accident, knowing that their identity remains confidential to the safety department, if desired….

(12) PILGRIMAGE DELAYED. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown discusses the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, which left Britain on June 15 in an effort to be the first ship to cross the Atlantic without a crew but whose voyage ended after two days because of mechanical problems. “IBM’s AI robot ship encounters trouble retracing Mayflower’s historic voyage”. Registration required.

There’s also an open article at WANE: “AI-powered Mayflower, beset with glitch, returns to England”.

The Mayflower had a few false starts before its trailblazing sea voyage to America more than 400 years ago. Now, its artificial intelligence-powered namesake is having some glitches of its own.

A sleek robotic trimaran retracing the 1620 journey of the famous English vessel had to turn back Friday to fix a mechanical problem.

Nonprofit marine research organization ProMare, which worked with IBM to build the autonomous ship, said it made the decision to return to base “to investigate and fix a minor mechanical issue” but hopes to be back on the trans-Atlantic journey as soon as possible….

(13) RACING WITH THE MOON. If you’d like to hear somebody’s opinion of the best werewolf movies, YouTube’s Marvelous Videos says these are the 13 best of all time.

The true fans of horror movies will acknowledge that Werewolf movies got an undue criticism and have been looked down upon right from the start. There has been a far greater acceptance for the likes of Zombie-flicks or even Vampire movies. Even amongst filmmakers, there is a general tendency to avoid Werewolf movies as it involves a greater investment in special effects, costumes, and makeup. The overall idea of Werewolves, however, is intriguing and with the right story, these movies can strike gold. Despite being the ignored cousin amongst various horror film genres, there are some Werewolf movies that did make an impact with the audiences.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Weta Workshop Behind the scenes: Our artists at work on Thra” on YouTube.

Tea leaves tree bark, pillow stuffing, succulents… and the world of Thra. We recently showed off a Dark Crystal diorama built by our talented artists, but how exactly did they do it? Daniel Falconer, Chris Menges and Mark Dewes talk us through their process while building this stunning miniature set.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern with an assist from OGH.]

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Spring 2021

Six suggestions from AudioFile Magazine of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to enjoy this Spring.

KLARA AND THE SUN

  • by Kazuo Ishiguro | Read by Sura Siu
  • [Random House Audio | 10.25 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Sura Siu will be a fresh voice for many listeners, and her wonderfully subdued narration proves perfect for portraying Klara, the all-too-observant “AF” (artificial friend) purchased by a mother for her ailing child. Assigned to look after Josie, Klara slowly discovers she is being groomed to be the failing child’s replacement. Siu conveys a range of contrasting voices, and in this challenging assignment, she proves herself a performer of rare grace, subtlety, and virtuosity whose haunting portrayal of Ishiguro’s more than human main character will linger in listeners’ minds for days.

Hear from Sura Siu herself on the making of Klara And The Sun:

THE ECHO WIFE

  • by Sarah Gailey | Read by Xe Sands
  • [Macmillan Audio | 8.5 hrs.]

Xe Sands narrates with a quiet tension that suits the slow creep of this sci-fi domestic thriller. Evelyn is an accomplished scientist in the field of cloning human adults, although her victories feel bittersweet. Her husband, Nathan, is having an affair, but not with just anyone—Nathan has used Evelyn’s own research techniques to create a domestic and illegal clone of Evelyn herself. Sands delivers all the slowly building suspense with her smooth first-person narration as the author executes plot twists that make for a satisfying, if disturbing, story.

COLONYSIDE

  • by Michael Mammay | Read by R.C. Bray
  • [Harper Audio | 10 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator R.C. Bray’s commanding voice perfectly suits this story of a disgraced colonel and a CEO’s missing daughter. Carl Butler hoped to live out his days on an ignored planet but agrees to take on what should be a simple case: finding a missing daughter. The story’s twists and turns build intrigue as Bray keeps the plot thundering forward. Both fans of the series and newcomers will fall under Bray’s spell as he delivers this relatively self-contained, well-plotted sci-fi adventure. 

D (A TALE OF TWO WORLDS)

  • by Michel Faber | Read by Isabel Adomakah Young
  • [Harper Audio | 6.75 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Isabel Adomakah Young shines as narrator in D, in which she portrays an orphan who journeys into a pocket universe (with a magical sphinx) to hunt down the fiend who’s absconded with the letter “d.” Young’s narration strikes a remarkable balance between a soothing lyricism and a playfulness that piques interest. She brings an earnestness that will have listeners rooting for the main character and a whimsy that brings to life a range of magical creatures. Listeners will appreciate the voice-acting chops it takes to effectively rea’ a manuscript that ‘osen’t inclu’e the letter __. 

GHOST SUMMER

  • by Tananarive Due | Read by Tananarive Due, Robin Miles, Janina Edwards
  • [Blackstone Audio | 13 hrs.]

This collection of 15 short stories by award-winning author Tananarive Due, first published in 2015 and given a fresh recording, spans several genres, including the supernatural, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and futurism. The author herself narrates several and is joined for the rest by practiced narrators Robin Miles and Janina Edwards, reading alternating stories. Three of the stories are set in the haunted fictional town of Gracetown, Florida, while three others are part of an apocalyptic trilogy featuring a raging virus.

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS

  • by H.G. Parry | Read by Andrew Kingston
  • [Hachette Audio | 21 hrs.] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

An alternate history of the eighteenth century weaves together the story of the slave rebellion in Haiti, the French Revolution, and the abolitionist movement in England—all wrapped in an undercurrent of magic. Andrew Kingston assumes subtle accents for each setting, and shows the rapport and friendships among many of the characters, enhancing the ways that events are intertwined. Parry makes the magic seem natural and an integral part of each political climate as he sets the stage for a sequel. 


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Spring 2021” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

Pixel Scroll 2/20/21 (I’m Picking Up) Good Vibraniums

(1) A CELEBRATION. N. K. Jemisin and Walter Mosley will be among the participants in “A Celebration of Octavia E. Butler”, a live virtual event at Symphony Space on February 24 starting at 7 p.m. (Eastern). Tickets sold at the link.

Actors and authors come together for an evening of readings and conversation to celebrate the work of the visionary author whose Afrofuturistic feminist novels and short fiction have become even more poignant since her death. Her award-winning novels, including Parable of the SowerKindredDawn, and Wild Seed, have influenced a generation of writers. Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon) will lead a discussion with authors N. K. Jemisin (How Long ’til Black Future Month?), Walter Mosley (The Awkward Black Man), and Imani Perry (Breathe: A Letter to My Sons); and actors Yetide Badaki (American Gods) and Adepero Oduye (When They See Us) will read selections from Butler’s prolific body of work.

Audience members will be invited to join the conversation with questions for the panelists.

(2) RED PLANET CLOSEUP. EiderFox Documentaries takes the NASA footage and gives you “Mars In 4K”.

A world first. New footage from Mars rendered in stunning 4K resolution. We also talk about the cameras on board the Martian rovers and how we made the video. The cameras on board the rovers were the height of technology when the respective missions launched. A question often asked is: ‘Why don’t we actually have live video from Mars?’ Although the cameras are high quality, the rate at which the rovers can send data back to earth is the biggest challenge. Curiosity can only send data directly back to earth at 32 kilo-bits per second. Instead, when the rover can connect to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, we get more favourable speeds of 2 Megabytes per second. However, this link is only available for about 8 minutes each Sol, or Martian day. As you would expect, sending HD video at these speeds would take a long long time. As nothing really moves on Mars, it makes more sense to take and send back images.

(3) WORLDCON FOLKS. Ty Schalter says he doesn’t know anything about the Worldcon, but his questions are good: “Worldcon vs. The World”. (Just the same it brings to mind a line from Field of Dreams: “Oh! You’re from the Sixties! There’s no room for you here in the future!”)

…How many of the people reading, writing, editing and publishing the state of the art in genre fiction also fly out to Worldcon every year? How many of the people who go to Worldcon every year are reading, say, FIYAH Magazine— the kind of bold, original, cutting-edge fantastic literature that’s currently earning Hugo Award nominations and wins?

I’m genuinely asking, because remember: I don’t know what I’m talking about. But from the outside, it sure looks like The SFF Community and Worldcon Folks are two pretty disparate groups of people, who don’t necessarily care for or value each other a whole lot.

I see it when SFF Twitter explodes with shock and outrage every time Worldcon steps on another rake— how did it happen again?! I see it every time Worldcon Folks are mystified that doing things the way they’ve always done them is now not just insufficient but immoral— and who are these people yelling at us, anyway?!

I see it every time I go to church.

Wait, church? Yes, at church — and in family businesses, and on non-profit boards. In Chambers of Commerce and Kiwanis clubs. In all the gray-haired, tuxedoed, former cultural revolutionaries of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame harrumphing about letting N.W.A. in their storied institution. In every walk of life, everywhere, there are cultural and social organizations caught in an existential battle of whether to preserve their traditions or their values.

As a white guy turning 40 this year, I have an appreciation for the SFF of the 20th century and its associated Baby Boomer fans, slans, SMOFs, etc. In many ways, they’re who I grew up aspiring to be. But now that I’m grown, I can see the cultural blind spots and moral holes in the kind of let’s-just-us-smart-people-get-on-a-rocket-and-let-all-the-dumb-people-die Visions of A Better Future that still entice prominent members of the middle-aged-and-up set….

(4) HUGO DYNAMICS. Eric Flint’s Facebook comments in a discussion about Baen’s Bar include his views about the Hugo Awards and the Sad Puppies slates.

(5) AURORA AWARDS ELIGIBILITY. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association is compiling its eligibility lists. Do you know of  work that belongs there? More information at their website.

Just a quick reminder that the Aurora Award Eligibility Lists for works done by Canadians in 2020 are open and awaiting your submissions. The Eligibility Lists will close on February 28th at 11:59 EST.  If you have created, published, read, or know of works or activities that should be on our lists please assist us and submit them. Help us find all the fantastic work done by Canadians in 2020! All works should be submitted to the eligibility lists on our website at www.prixaurorawards.ca 

(6) BE LARRY’S GOOGLE MONKEY. Larry Correia is crowdsourcing the next step in his retaliation against the Worldcon for DisCon III disinviting Toni Weisskopf as a guest of honor. Camestros Felapton has the screencap in his post “More Larry Nonsense”. Correia’s public call says in part —

… I need examples of writers/editors/fans who WorldCon is perfectly comfortable with, and their shitty posts, tweets, memes, of things that aren’t “inclusive”. (advocating violence, shooting cops, killing Trump, celebrating Rush’s death, putting us in reeducation camps, whatever. If it makes you feel not included, I’d like to know)
If you don’t have a screen cap but are going from memory, that’s fine…. 

(7) HORRIBLE FAN BEHAVIOR. Examples of bad behavior in the sff community aren’t hard to come by. Harlan Ellison’s recitation of fannish awfulness, “Xenogenesis,” was probably written off the top of his head. It originated as his 1984 Westercon GoH speech. The Internet Archive has a copy in the transcript of an Asimov’s issue — https://archive.org/stream/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08_djvu.txt

Ellison precedes his dossier of criminal acts and psychopathic behavior with this introduction:

… In biology there is a phenomenon known as xenogenesis. It is a pathological state in which the child does not resemble the parent. You may remember a fairly grisly 1975 film by my pal Larry Cohen titled It’s Alive! in which a fanged and taloned baby gnaws its way out of its mother’s womb and slaughters the attending nurses and gynecologist in the delivery room and then leaps straight up through a skylight, smashes out, and for the duration of the film crawls in and out of the frame ripping people’s throats.

Its natural father is a CPA or something similar. Most CPA’s do not, other than symbolically, have fangs and talons. Xenogenesis.

In the subculture of science fiction literature and its umbilically attached aficionados, we have the manifestation of a symbiotic relationship in which the behavior of the children, that is, the fans, does not resemble the noble ideals set forth in the writings and pronouncements of the parents, the writers. For all its apocalyptic doomsaying, its frequent pointing with alarm, its gardyloos of caution, the literature of imagination has ever and always promoted an ethic of good manners and kindness via its viewpoint characters.

The ones we are asked to relate to, in sf and fantasy, the ones we are urged to see as the Good Folks, are usually the ones who say excuse me and thank you, ma’am.

The most efficient narrative shorthand to explain why a particular character is the one struck by cosmic lightning or masticated by some nameless Lovecraftian horror is to paint that character as rude, insensitive, paralogical or slovenly.

Through this free-floating auctorial trope, the canon has promulgated as salutary an image of mannerliness, rectitude and humanism. The smart alecks, slugs, slimeworts and snipers of the universe in these fables unfailingly reap a terrible comeuppance.

That is the attitude of the parents, for the most part.

Yet the children of this ongoing education, the fans who incorporate the canon as a significant part of their world-view, frequently demonstrate a cruelty that would, in the fiction, bring them a reward of Job-like awfulness….

(8) WHO KNEW? Science Sensei regales fans with “40 Times Science Fiction Was Wrong About Predicted Future Events”. Connie Willis’ emcee routines about sf predictions are much funnier, admittedly.

… No matter how accurate some writers are about the future, they are victims of the time they live in. It’s not Verne’s fault that he wrote his books in the 1800s and lacked the knowledge we have today. Yet this is what happens when you write about the future. Those future people can look back to see how accurate you were. Verne is one of many amazing writers who were both right and wrong about his future predictions. Yet some were completely wrong, and this involves far more than books. That is what our article is about, the science fiction out there that ended up getting the future very wrong. Enjoy!

25. Back to the Future Part II (Food Hydrators In 2015)

The original Back to the Future, starring Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox came out in 1985. The movies were all released within 5 years in real-time but they had to always return to the year of the original film, 1985. Instead of the past, the second film focused on the future

In this film, we see a Future 2015, where they have an entire world we almost wish was real. One of the impressive futuristic inventions in the film was a Food Hydrator by Black & Decker. Any food you wanted could be made with it, cooked quickly and ready to go in seconds. We never saw this in 2015, and we’re still upset about it!

(9) THAT JOB IS HELLA HARD. David Gerrold comments on “What Would It Take to Actually Settle an Alien World?” and his writing generally in a new installment of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast at WIRED.

David Gerrold is the author of dozens of science fiction books, including The Martian Child and The Man Who Folded Himself. His new novel Hella, about a low-gravity planet inhabited by dinosaur-like aliens, was inspired by the 2011 TV series Terra Nova.

“The worldbuilding that they did was very interesting, very exciting, but because I was frustrated that they didn’t go in the direction I wanted to go, I was thinking, ‘Let me do a story where I can actually tackle the worldbuilding problems,’” Gerrold says in Episode 454 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Hella goes into enormous detail about the logistics of settling an alien world, and grapples with questions like: Would it be safe for us to eat alien proteins? Would it be safe for us to breathe alien germs? What effect would plants and animals from Earth have on an alien ecology? It’s a far cry from many science fiction stories which assume that alien planets would be pretty much like Earth. “My theory is that there are no Earthlike planets, there’s just lazy writers,” Gerrold says….

(10) THE WORLD SF MAKES. Sherryl Vint’s Science Fiction is being released by MIT Press this month.

Summary

How science fiction has been a tool for understanding and living through rapid technological change.

…After a brief overview of the genre’s origins, science fiction authority Sherryl Vint considers how and why contemporary science fiction is changing. She explores anxieties in current science fiction over such key sites of technological innovation as artificial intelligence, genomic research and commodified biomedicine, and climate change. Connecting science fiction with speculative design and futurology in the corporate world, she argues that science fiction does not merely reflect these trends, but has a role in directing them.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 20, 1955  — On this day in 1955, Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty five years later Images was a full-blown horror film. And of course Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he  wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)  (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Pierre Boulle.  For us, Planet of the Apes and eight more novels, thirty shorter stories; famous for The Bridge on the River Kwai; a dozen other novels.  Knight of the Legion of Honor, Croix de GuerreMédaille de la Resistance, earned during World War II.   (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Ed Clinton.  A score of short stories (some as Anthony More).  “Idea Man” essay in the Jan 44 Diablerie.  Review & Comments Editor for Rhodomagnetic Digest.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Dan Goodman.  Active fan in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis.  Literate, articulate, wry.  Edited and I believe named the Minn-StF clubzine Einblatt.  For a while in The Cult, to which the Fancyclopedia III article hardly does justice, but see Hamlet Act II scene 2 (Folger Shakespeare line 555).  In Lofgeornost at least as recently as 2014.  A story in Tales of the Unanticipated.  A note by me here.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Suford Lewis, F.N., age 78.  Active in the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.); then NESFA (New England SF Ass’n): a Founding Fellow (service; first year’s Fellow of NESFA awards, 1976), President, chaired Boskone 10, co-chaired B44, edited six Bujold books for NESFA Press, also the excellent Noreascon Two Memory Book (post-con; 38th Worldcon).  Ran the Retrospective-Hugo ceremony for L.A.con III (42nd), the Masquerade (our on-stage costume competition) for Noreascon Three (47th).  Co-ordinated and actually brought into being Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck, herself drawing Strength (! – Major Arcana VIII; a dozen-year project; see all the images and BP’s introduction here, PDF), and exhibiting all the original artwork at N2.  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon VI (with husband Tony Lewis).  That ain’t the half of it.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 78. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 67. Perhaps best known as as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Operaas Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1964 – Tracey Rolfe, age 57.  Half a dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Clarion South 2004 (see her among other graduates in Andromeda Spaceways 10).  “How do you deal with writer’s block?” ‘I usually take my dog out for a walk.’ [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 42. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superbly done) which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1989 – Nathália Suellen, age 32.  Digital artist and commercial illustrator.  A score of covers for us, but certainty is elusive at borders.  Here is Above.  Here is Unhinged.  Here is The Gathering Dark (U.K. title).  Here is Henry, the Gaoler.  Here is a self-portrait.  [JH]

(13) EMOTIONAL ROBOTS. On March 10, Writers Bloc presents “Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro with Westworld’s Lisa Joy”. Book purchase required for access to the livestream.

Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, seduces us with his storytelling. His novels (The Remains of the DayNever Let Me Go; and others) draw us in and we are powerless to leave the page. His novels are deceptive–while he lulls us into his gorgeous and straightforward prose, he presents us with profound observations of human behavior, and explorations of love, duty, and identity. In his new novel, Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro introduces us to Klara, an artificial object who watches the world from her perch in a shop. She watches the comings and goings of those who enter the shop, and those who merely pass by. She hopes that someone will choose her. and that she can be loved. Magnificent.

In conversation with Lisa Joy. Lisa Joy is one of the creators and writers of the acclaimed HBO series, Westworld. A dystopic genre-bending series, Westworld explores the fraught relationship between humans and human-looking robots at an amusement park. What happens when artificial intelligence interferes with the people who employ them? What happens when artificial intelligence breaks its own boundaries and those robots start to feel, to love, to cause harm? Westworld has won countless prestigious awards.

(14) ELUSIVE APPOINTMENTS. “How some frustrated COVID-19 vaccine hunters are trying to fix a broken system”The Seattle Times has the story.

That pretty much said it all, the other day, when a 90-year-old remarked in a Seattle Times story that the easy part of navigating our COVID-19 vaccine system was when she had to walk 6 miles through the snow to get the shot.

George Hu is only 52, but he can sympathize. When the former Microsoft developer tried to find appointments online for his 80-year-old in-laws, he was dumbfounded how primitive it all was.

“All tech people who see this setup are horrified,” Hu says.

That was my experience trying to nab a slot for my 91-year-old father. As everyone discovers, there isn’t one or a couple of places to hunt vaccine, but rather … hundreds, many with their own interfaces. I ran into one vaccine provider that was using Doodle for its vaccine appointment scheduling, another using Sign-Up Genius, another with a “don’t call us, we’ll text you back sometime” online form.

Rather than a global health emergency, it felt more like when the PTA is signing parents up for a bake sale.

“It’s whack-a-mole, except there are 300 holes,” Hu says. “And also you have no clue if the mole is ever going to pop up in any of them.”

(15) WHAT A BUNCH OF SCHIST. The headline made me click – “The missing continent it took 375 years to find” at BBC Future. Maybe your power to resist will be greater!

It took scientists 375 years to discover the eighth continent of the world, which has been hiding in plain sight all along. But mysteries still remain….

Zealandia was originally part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which was formed about 550 million years ago and essentially lumped together all the land in the southern hemisphere. It occupied a corner on the eastern side, where it bordered several others, including half of West Antarctica and all of eastern Australia.

Then around 105 million years ago, “due to a process which we don’t completely understand yet, Zealandia started to be pulled away”, says Tulloch.

Continental crust is usually around 40km deep – significantly thicker than oceanic crust, which tends to be around 10km. As it was strained, Zealandia ended up being stretched so much that its crust now only extends 20km (12.4 miles) down. Eventually, the wafter-thin continent sank – though not quite to the level of normal oceanic crust – and disappeared under the sea.

Despite being thin and submerged, geologists know that Zealandia is a continent because of the kinds of rocks found there. Continental crust tends to be made up of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks – like granite, schist and limestone, while the ocean floor is usually just made of igneous ones such as basalt.

But there are still many unknowns. The unusual origins of the eighth continent make it particularly intriguing to geologists, and more than a little baffling. For example, it’s still not clear how Zealandia managed to stay together when it’s so thin and not disintegrate into tiny micro-continents.

Another mystery is exactly when Zealandia ended up underwater – and whether it has ever, in fact, consisted of dry land. The parts that are currently above sea level are ridges that formed as the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates crumpled together. Tulloch says opinion is split as to whether it was always submerged apart from a few small islands, or once entirely dry land….

(16) THE BUZZ. Mental Floss assures us that Wasps Are Ridding Anne Boleyn’s Birthplace of Moth Infestation”.

…Now, however, it’s home to common clothes moths that could wreak havoc on rugs, clothing, and other vulnerable artifacts—including a rare 18th-century canopy bed and a tapestry that Catherine the Great bestowed upon the household in the 1760s. The moths have had much freer rein throughout Blickling Hall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and periodic pest counts have proved that the population has grown considerably over the past year.

“There’s no doubt lockdown suited our resident bugs,” assistant national conservator Hilary Jarvis said in a press release. “The relative quiet, darkness, and absence of disruption from visitors and staff provided perfect conditions for larvae and adults alike from March onwards.”

To curb further spawning, the National Trust has enlisted the help of an unlikely ally: microscopic parasitoid wasps (Trichogramma evanescens). In 11 especially moth-ridden locations within the hall, staff members will plant dispensers that hold around 2400 wasps each, which will destroy moth eggs by laying their own eggs inside them. Though it seems like Blickling Hall will have simply swapped out one infestation for another, the wasps pose no threat to the upholstery or anything else—they’ll eventually die and “disappear inconspicuously into house dust,” if all goes according to plan….

(17) TENET COMMENTARY. CinemaWins tells you “Everything GREAT About Tenet!” There must have been more good stuff in there than I suspected.

  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 0 (Plot Breakdown):
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 1: 
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 2: 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Jim Henson Introduces Kermit The Frog to Dick” on YouTube is a November 1971 clip from The Dick Cavett Show with both Jim Henson and Kermit as guests where you can clearly see how Henson changed his voice to be Kermit.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, rcde, John Hertz, N., Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #17

Nobels, Guns and Money

By Chris M. Barkley

NOBELS

For several years, literary critics had been putting the Nobel’s Literature committee’s feet to the fire (and I count myself among the match lighters) on their long exclusion of American writers. Since they threw us a huge (and oddly shaped) bone last year in naming Bob Dylan, the consensus was that another American was probably not in the cards. Meaning Harlan Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Louise Erdrich, Don DiLillo other perennial Nobel benchwarmers will have to wait until next year. (SIDE NOTE to the Nobel Literature Committee: You KNOW there is absolutely NOTHING stopping you from awarding more than one person in this category every year, right? One woman, one man. Two women. Two men. Just Sayin’.)

And the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature is…Kazou Ishiguro from the United Kingdom!

Mr. Ishiguro’s anointment to the highest level of literary immortality is well deserved and we in the f&sf community should enthusiastically applaud him.

Well, yeah, with a few pointed qualifiers, which I am more than happy to provide for you.

Mr. Ishiguro’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go is a dystopia tinged novel set in our near future. It received generally good reviews and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award and, (SURPRISE!), the 2006 Arthur C. Clarke Award.   Upon the 2011 release of the film in the UK, he was quoted in The Herald of Scotland saying, “It’s almost like they’ve given us older writers license to use it [science fiction]. Before, it was ghettoized and stigmatized. For years there has been a prejudice towards sci-fi writing, which I think has been to the loss of the literary world, and not vice versa. But with things like graphic novels now, people are taking it seriously.”

Which was very gracious of Mr. ishiguro. That is, until he then qualified his statement later in the interview with, “In truth, the sci-fi label is misleading, says Ishiguro. ‘I’m just wary like everybody else that it’ll bring in the wrong audience with the wrong expectations.”

I confess to be a little puzzled by this attitude since, if he truly felt that way about sf, he had every opportunity to decline the Clarke nomination.

In any event, it was the publication of The Buried Giant in 2015 that brought Ishiguro into direct conflict with our very own Ursula K. Le Guin when, in an interview with the New York Times, pronounced his novel, an Arthurian era set tale complete with ogres and a dragon, was NOT a fantasy. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?”

This drew the ire of Le Guin, who tartly replied:

Well, yes, they probably will. Why not? It appears that the author takes the word for an insult. To me that is so insulting, it reflects such thoughtless prejudice, that I had to write this piece in response. Fantasy is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality…  No writer can successfully use the ‘surface elements’ of a literary genre — far less its profound capacities — for a serious purpose, while despising it to the point of fearing identification with it. I found reading the book painful. It was like watching a man falling from a high wire while he shouts to the audience, “Are they going say I’m a tight-rope walker?’”

To be fair, The Buried Giant is Mr. Ishiguro’s work; if he does not want to call it a fantasy, it’s his call. However, in doing so he does what most “mainstream” writers do when they publish a work that is perceived as “genre fiction”, either vehemently deny it and incessantly worry how their peers will react, their standing with literary critics and how it will affect their career.

Literary snobbery, whether it is perpetrated by the literary establishment or the rest of us on the outside looking in at them, does not help the cause of literature. Congratulations are in order for Mr. Ishiguro; he may have written two “genre novels” but he still managed to win the Nobel Prize in literature. I sincerely wish I could forward the following view from one of his esteemed American colleagues, Michael Chabon, taken from an interview with WIRED Magazine in 2012:

One of the points I was trying to make in those McSweeney’s anthologies, and in the introductions I wrote for those, is that it was not even 100 years ago — and certainly as long ago as 150 years ago — when all kinds of incredibly important work was being done by writers in France, and England, and Russia, and Germany. The great European literary 19th-century tradition is a genre tradition, and it’s unmistakably, unashamedly, unabashedly in the works of the greatest writers of the 19th century. You find sea stories, and ghost stories, and adventure stories, and early forms of proto-science fiction and fantasy, across the board.

And that kind of boundarylessness, or literary realms where the boundaries are very porous and indistinct and can be reconfigured at will, is much more interesting and appealing to me as a writer than a world where the categories are really set and really distinct, and the boundaries are really high, and people have to stay where they start, and can’t move out of those categories. I mean, that’s just inherently deathly. And the reasons why it changed are bad reasons, they’re economic and financial and marketing kinds of reasons, and they have to do with snobbery and academic laziness. I mean, there are almost no good reasons involved for that change that took place since writers like Dickens, who wrote crime fiction and supernatural fiction as easily as social realist fiction, and often all in the same story.

A final word to the Nobel Committee: a literary work should be judged on its own merits, not the “genre” of literature it is arbitrarily assigned to by people who make it their business to discriminate and squash it.

GUNS

“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

Robert Anson Heinlein (Beyond This Horizon, 1948)

The day after the Las Vegas Massacre, Monday, October 2 was a very emotional for me. Two fans I know well were in Las Vegas. Both of them (whom I am not naming due to privacy concerns) marked themselves safe on Facebook within 24 hours.

I’ve only held a real firearm in my hands only twice in my lifetime and by an astonishing coincidence, both guns were WWII era German Lugers. (It’s a long story. Ask me about it some other time.)

At the moment, I have no desire to own a gun. I don’t want to take anyone’s legally owned guns away from them (unless it warranted). I would be willing the pick up a firearm to defend myself, my family, my friends and my country if I were called upon to do so. I also have an incredible amount of respect for what they can do in the hands of a skilled professional and a pathological fear of what can happen in practically anyone’s else’s.

Libertarians and gun enthusiasts love Robert Heinlein’s quote because it simply purports that the presence of a firearm in everyone’s hand insures harmony amongst everyone. Well, THAT may work in a novel but when you apply this maxim to real life and real people, you quickly discern that this isn’t a dream scenario; it is America’s ongoing nightmare.

The NRA and their supporters, lobbyists, apologists and sycophants are creating a dystopia of fear in this country. They want the wearing of firearms in public everywhere to become a social norm in all fifty states and territories. They advocate this “utopian” goal in spite of five thousand years of recorded human stupidity regarding the widespread human use of weapons and armaments all over the world.

And when an individual fires into an unsuspecting crowd of twenty thousand people, kills fifty-eight and wounds over five hundred, something unusual happened. The gun lobby, finally alarmed at the massive casualties in Las Vegas, blinked. Three days after the tragedy, the NRA signaled that “bump stock’ devices, which convert semi-automatics into automatic weapons, should be subject to “further regulation”. Needless to say, gun enthusiasts nationwide started a run on bump stocks before they are banned.

Now the cynic in me thinks that the real reason for this tiny bit of capitulation on their part is because of the hue and cry from all sides of the political spectrum, including some of their most ardent supporters, and that the use of bumps stocks were the primary reason so many were killed and injured. They are deathly afraid (pun intended) that this will be the incident that will lead directly to the banning of the most popular semi-automatic sold in the US, the AR-15.

My inner cynic also feels that if the gun lobby were truly serious about promoting gun safety over gun rights, something would have been done after another crazed person cut down twenty children and six school teachers in cold blood back in 2012. And if they were truly interested in promoting public safety and responsible gun ownership, their response about regulating bump stocks and its use at the Las Vegas massacre should have taken twelve hours, not three days.

But the gun culture has progressed so far and deep into the American psyche, outright prohibition is out of the question. We all know what happened when we tried a constitutional ban on alcohol. It solved nothing and caused unintended consequences we’re still dealing with today.

The best, practical, common sense goal is to make those who would want to purchase a gun at a certain point in the future more responsible for their weapons and their actions.

The minimum we should require of a purchaser would be a mandatory waiting period, say 72 hours, should be established for any purchase, along with some proof that each weapon is insured for loss and liability. In addition, there should be some mandatory certification or a state issued license that the purchaser has undergone firearms training.

Whether progressives, liberals and gun control advocates like it or not, we are awash in guns and the only thing concerned citizens can do now is to pursue a course of moderation and hope we gradually come to our senses.

I would like to think that Robert Heinlein would approve.

Nita Green with her son, Merritt and her daughter, Rose-Marie.

…And MONEY

Rose-Marie Lillian has a BIG problem and she is sorely in need of your HELP!. Her mother, Nita Green, passed away in April 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. Rose-Marie was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a legendary, multiple Hugo Award winning artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement made at a legal deposition in December 2016. At this point, she has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband (the esteemed fan writer and multiple Hugo nominee, Guy Lillian III) is an attorney, he is licensed in Louisiana and her cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and the urgent need now is to obtain funds to pay it.

Rose-Marie turns to you for help.

The retainer required will fall between $5,000 and $7,500. She also has past legal bills incurred in this matter to cover, and future expenses to bear. Funds are needed as soon as possible to move this long-delayed case forward and to help bring Nita Green’s last wishes for her daughter to reality. Meticulous accounting of all donations will be kept and a strict account of expenditures supplied.

Rose-Marie Lillian is a longtime member of our sf community in good standing and deserves our BEST EFFORTS!

I can personally vouch for her; I LIKE her so much I once gave her a Justice League of America sweatshirt, which she proudly wears occasionally.

CAN YOU HELP?  DO SO TODAY by going to the link below! THANK YOU!

“Save Rosy’s Inheritance”

Kazuo Ishiguro Wins 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature

Kazuo Ishiguro

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 has been awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world” the citation says.

Following the announcement, Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, described Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing style as a mix of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka: “But you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix, and then you stir.”

The fantastic elements in his latest novel, The Buried Giant (2015) argue for his inclusion among the small number of sff authors to win the prize, such as Kipling and Doris Lessing.

That he would consider himself to belong was threshed out in a 2015 exchange between Ursula K. Le Guin and Ishiguro. After he was quoted in an NYT interview pondering, “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?” – Le Guin made the news with her reply – “Well, yes, they probably will. Why not? It appears that the author takes the word for an insult. To me that is so insulting, it reflects such thoughtless prejudice, that I had to write this piece in response.”

Ishiguro subsequently explained, “[Le Guin]’s entitled to like my book or not like my book, but as far as I am concerned, she’s got the wrong person. I am on the side of the pixies and the dragons,” and Le Guin withdrew her criticism: “I am delighted to let Mr Ishiguro make his own case, and to say I am sorry for anything that was hurtful in my evidently over-hasty response to his question ‘Will they think this is fantasy?’”

And in the Academy’s bio-bibliography Ishiguro is explicitly associated with sf —

Ishiguro’s dystopian Never Let Me Go (2005) , Ishiguro introduced a cold undercurrent of science fiction into his work.

His other novels include A Pale View of Hills (1982), An Artist of the Floating World (1986), and The Remains of the Day (1989), which was turned into film with Anthony Hopkins acting as the duty-obsessed butler Stevens. Apart from his eight books, Ishiguro has also written scripts for film and television.

After the award was announced Ishiguro told The Guardian

“It comes at a time when the world is uncertain about its values, its leadership and its safety,” Ishiguro said. “I just hope that my receiving this huge honour will, even in a small way, encourage the forces for goodwill and peace at this time.”

[Thanks to NickPheas for the story.]

Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro Debate on BBC Radio 4

You don’t build a convention panel around a softball question like “Are genre labels like ‘fantasy’ and ‘science fiction’ pejorative terms, or labels to be proud of?” unless your participants bring a built-in drama to the topic the way novelists Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro did when they appeared in a 10-minute segment for BBC Radio 4 Today on May 28.

Gaiman reviewed Ishiguro’s new novel, The Buried Giant, in the New York Times in February, concluding that despite the craftsmanship it is “a novel that’s easy to admire, to respect and to enjoy, but difficult to love.”

And a few days before that, Ishiguro was quoted in an NYT interview pondering, “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?” – a line which made Ursula Le Guin livid. She made the news with her reply – “Well, yes, they probably will. Why not? It appears that the author takes the word for an insult. To me that is so insulting, it reflects such thoughtless prejudice, that I had to write this piece in response.”

Ishiguro subsequently explained, “[Le Guin]’s entitled to like my book or not like my book, but as far as I am concerned, she’s got the wrong person. I am on the side of the pixies and the dragons,” and Le Guin withdrew her criticism: “I am delighted to let Mr Ishiguro make his own case, and to say I am sorry for anything that was hurtful in my evidently over-hasty response to his question ‘Will they think this is fantasy?’”

However, the volatile history between Ishiguro and two fantasy standard-bearers doubtless inspired Radio 4 to match the writers on the air, although the show’s video feed establishes that while the discussion was good, neither combatant left his corner…