2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 1/13/21 The Scroll Is A Harsh Mistress

(1) OVERVIEW OF THE NEW LOTR SERIES. Amazon just unloaded Parler but now they’re bringing back Sauron? What are they thinking? io9 has the story: “Amazon Reveals Lord of the Rings TV Show Details—Sauron Returns”.

…Confirmed via a synopsis provided to TheOneRing.net, Amazon Studios revealed that the series—currently filming in New Zealand with a cast that seems about as large as the population of a small country on top of that—is indeed set in the Second Age, “thousands” of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The show will concern itself with characters “both familiar and new” as they reckon with the fact that the Dark Lord Sauron has returned to cast shadow and flame across Middle-earth.

(2) WORLDCON HOTEL NEWS. “Owner of DC’s Wardman Park Hotel files for bankruptcy” reports WTOP. The hotel is where DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, would be held if an in-person 2021 Worldcon is possible:

Wardman Hotel Owner LLC, an affiliate of Pacific Life Insurance Co., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has ended its management contract with Marriott International.

The 1,152-room Wardman Park, one of the largest hotels in D.C., opened in 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Pacific Life permanently closed the hotel just before filing for bankruptcy protection, and is seeking to sell the property, which could clear the way for the property’s redevelopment.

The Chapter 11 petition was filed Jan. 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

Marriott and Pacific Life have been locked in legal disputes since shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the hotel’s temporary closure in March 2020.

…The owner’s bankruptcy filing Monday came the same day that neighboring historic hotel the Omni Shoreham reopened.

The DisCon III committee hasn’t posted a response to the latest development, but last October they did address their plans for an alternative to the Wardman Park if needed. The chairs wrote in the convention’s newsletter [PDF file]:

As you can imagine, we have uncertainty related to the Coronavirus but planning and activities continue. The status of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is unclear. Litigation between the owners was filed 2 September and settled at the end of September. At the start of October, Marriott filed a lawsuit against one of the entities that owns the hotel. What a mess! The hotel itself does not have an official statement at this time, and we are in close touch. Our Facilities team does have the room blocks for both the Marriott and the Omni Shoreham set up, and our current plan is to release those in January 2021.

(3) BOOM BOOM BOOM. James Davis Nicoll names “Five Books Featuring Space Travel Powered by Atomic Bombs”. Strange that I’ve read four of these but only remembered the nukes from one of them.

Nuclear explosives can be used to address many urgent issues: a shortage of mildly radioactive harbours, for example, or the problem of having too many wealthy, industrialized nations not populated by survivors who envy the dead. The most pressing issue—the need for a fast, affordable space drive—wasn’t solved until the late 1950s. Theodore B. Taylor and others proposed that the Bomb could be used to facilitate rapid space travel across the Solar System. Thus, Project Orion was born….

(4) SOMETHING ELSE THAT’S SURGING. “Online D&D provides relief during the COVID-19 pandemic” – the Los Angeles Times profiled D&D players.

… Players and scholars attribute the game’s resurgent popularity not only to the longueurs of the pandemic, but also to its reemergence in pop culture — on the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” whose main characters play D&D in a basement; on the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”; or via the host of celebrities who display their love for the game online.

Liz Schuh, head of publishing and licensing for Dungeons & Dragons, isn’t surprised by the game’s reanimated popularity. Revenue was up 35% in 2020 compared with 2019, the seventh consecutive year of growth, she said.

Many newcomers purchase starter kits packed with character sheets, a rule book, a set of dice and a story line. New dungeon masters may buy a foldable screen to hide their rolls and anything else they’d like to keep from the player-characters. Once the introductory journey ends, players pore through other adventure books for sale — or conjure an original odyssey.

“The first few days of news [of the virus] coming out globally, at the top of every hour all the alarms were going off at the company,” said Dean Bigbee, director of operations for Roll20, an online tabletop gaming platform. “The amount of new account requests were so high that the systems thought that we were under a denial-of-service attack. But they were legitimate. They were accounts from Italy, and then France, following the paths of lockdowns across the world.”

(5) FORTIES SF’S POWER COUPLE SPEAKS. G.W. Thomas at Dark Worlds Quarterly put together a fine link compilation: “In Their Own Words: Interviews with Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton”, who married in 1946 and put Kinsman, Ohio on the map.

Here are some interviews given by Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton. They range from artsy film magazines to the cheapest of fanzines. My favorite is the audio clip from Youtube when Leigh and Ed were the guests of honor at the 1964 (PacifiCon) WorldCon. It is somehow revealing to hear what their voices sounded like and to glean a little of their personalities beyond the printed page….

Included are Q&A’s conducted by one of fandom’s best interviewers, Paul Walker, such as his Leigh Brackett interview from Luna Monthly #61 [1976] [Internet archive link].

(6) STRAIN OBIT. Actress Julie Strain, whose genre resume is mostly erotic horror movies, has died reports Joblo.com: “R.I.P.: Julie Strain, B-movie legend and Penthouse Pet, has died at age 58”. This is the third time her death has been announced, however, news sources are satisfied this time the news is accurate.

Last January, it was mistakenly announced that B-movie legend and 1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain had passed away. The announcement was quickly retracted – but in a sad twist of fate, friends and family are confirming that Strain has passed away almost one year to the day after that erroneous report. She was 58 years old.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 — Thirty years ago at Chicon V, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s The Vor Game  as published by Baen Books wins the Hugo for Best Novel. Runners-ups were David Brin‘s Earth, Dan Simmons’ The Fall of Hyperion, Michael P. Kube-McDowell’s The Quiet Pools and Greag Bear’s Queen of Angels. It would nominated for the HOMer as well.  A portion of this novel had appeared in the February 1990 issue of  Analog magazine in slightly different form as the “Weatherman” story.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 – Clark Ashton Smith.  Poetry, prose, graphic art, sculpture.  One novel, two hundred thirty shorter stories, seven hundred poems; a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors; five dozen posthumous collections.  Pillar of Weird Tales with Howard and Lovecraft.  “I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.”  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1933 – Ron Goulart, age 88.  Eighty novels, a hundred fifty shorter stories.  Book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Venture.  Comic-book stories and prose about The Phantom; scripts for Marvel.  Inkpot Award.  Detective fiction, including half a dozen books featuring Groucho Marx.  Nonfiction, e.g. The Great Comic Book ArtistsComic Book Encyclopedia.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1937 – George Barr, age 84.  Decades-long career as a fanartist; here is a cover for Amrahere is one for Trumpet; two Hugos as Best Fanartist; Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXVI, at MidAmeriCon the 34th Worldcon.  Also developed a career as a pro.  Here is The Dying Earth.  Here is the Sep 86 Amazing.  Here is Adventures in Unhistory.  Artist GoH at ConAdian the 52nd Worldcon.  Fifty illustrated limericks for Weird Tales.  Fan and pro, two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors.  Artbook Upon the Winds of Yesterday.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 83. His best remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes, he’ll show in the DS9 episode that repurposed this episode to great effect. He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer SpaceThe Munsters TodaySlidersThe Incredible HulkWonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 76. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of  Red Moon and Black MountainThe Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes.  Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and  designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends.  I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone actually read it? (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1957 – Claudia Emerson.  Five poems for us in Son and Foe.  Eight collections.  Poetry editor for Greensboro Review.  Pulitzer Prize.  Acad. Amer. Poets Prize.  Poet Laureate of Virginia.  Elected to Fellowship of Southern Writers.  Donald Justice Award.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1960 Mark Chadbourn, 61. I’ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice but they make for very entertaining reading. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well. (CE)
  • Born January 13, 1968 Ken Scholes, 53. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, is The Psalms of Isaak.  His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “The Wings We Dare Aspire” for METAtropolis: Green Space. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1972 Una McCormack, 49. She’s the author of The Baba Yaga and The Star of the Sea, two novels  in the delightful Weird Space series. She’s also written myriad Trek novels including a Discovery novel, The Way to the Stars, and the first Picard novel, The Last Best Hope. She’s also a writer of Who novels having five so far, plus writing for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1979 – Bree Despain, age 42.  Six novels, a couple of shorter stories.  Took a semester off college to write and direct plays for inner-city teens.  Felt she wasn’t special enough to be a writer, decided to study law.  Hit by a pickup truck.  Thought it out again.  First book sold on 6th anniversary of collision.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1980 Beth Cato, 41. Her first series, the Clockwork Dagger sequence beginning with The Clockwork Dagger novel is most excellent popcorn literature. She’s fine a considerable amount of excellent short fiction which has been mostly collected in  Deep Roots and Red Dust and Dancing Horses and Other Stories. Her website features a number of quite tasty cake recipes including Browned Butter Coffee Bundt Cake. Really I kid you not. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1981 – Ieva Melgave, age 40.  Her “Siren’s Song” has been translated from Latvian into English.  Interviewed (in English) in Vector 281.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) ALIENS OMNIBUS. Marvel invites fans to jump on the Aliens Omnibus when the volumes arrive in April and August.

Cover by Mahmud Asrar

The classic comic book tales set in the iconic—and terrifying—world of the Alien franchise are being collected in brand-new hardcover collection starting in April with Aliens Omnibus Volume 1. And in August, fans of the iconic franchise can enjoy even more of these thrilling comic book stories with Aliens: The Original Years Omnibus Vol. 2.

A rogue scientist’s genetic experiments create a horrific new alien king! A ragtag unit of Colonial Marines battles a xenomorph infestation on a space station — and the survivors face a pack of bizarre hybrids! An investigator must solve a murder on a deep-space alien-research station! But what dread music will a deranged composer make with an alien’s screams? And can a synthetic xenomorph rebel against its sadistic creator? Plus: Flash back to an alien attack in the 1950s! And witness the fate of England as aliens overrun the Earth! This rare collection includes: Aliens: Rogue #1-4, Aliens: Colonial Marines #1-10, Aliens: Labyrinth #1-4, Aliens: Salvation, Aliens: Music Of The Spears #1-4 and Aliens: Stronghold #1-4 — plus material from Dark Horse Comics #3-5, #11-13 And #15-19; Previews (1993) #1-12; Previews (1994) #1; and Aliens Magazine (1992) #9-20.

Exclusive direct market variant cover by Paul Mendoza

(11) THE REAL SPACE COMMAND. “U.S. Space Command to be headquartered in Huntsville, Ala.” reports station WAFF.

The permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command will be located at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.

According to a statement from the Secretary of the Air Force, Huntsville was confirmed as the preferred location for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters.

The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters. The decision was based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense.

(12) AUDIOBOOK NARRATION. In AudioFile’s latest Behind the Mic, narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt shares her thoughts about recording Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer, on AudioFile’s list of the 2020 Best Young Adult Audiobooks.

Listeners meet Tarisai as a lonely younger girl growing up with a distant mother, and we feel her astonishment when she’s brought to the palace in Aristar and meets the prince — and discovers her new friend is the person her mother cursed her to kill. This vibrant and multilayered fantasy audiobook comes to life with Joniece’s evocative narration.

“You watch her save the world… and that was really cool, to be inside of a story of a young woman that got to stand in her truth and in her power. You watch a princess mature into a queen.”—Narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt

Read AudioFile Magazine’s review of Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko.

(13) COOK BOOKS. Get stacks of Glen Cook novels via this new Bundle of Holding deal.

Adventurer! This Glen Cook Bundle presents novels by fantasy and science fiction author Glen Cook from Night Shade Books. Best known for his Black Company dark military fantasies, Cook has also written the eight-book Dread Empire epic fantasy series, the Starfishers and Darkwar trilogies, and many free-standing novels. This all-new fiction offer gives you nearly two dozen Glen Cook novels in both ePub and Kindle ebook formats for an unbeatable bargain price.

For just US$7.95 you get all five titles in our Glen Cook Sampler (retail value $69) as DRM-free ePub and Kindle ebooks

… And if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.97, you’ll level up and also get our entire Complete Collection with eight more titles…

(14) ON SECOND THOUGHT. He’s a busy man, you know.

(15) HELICONIA WINTER. Richard Paolinelli handed out the 2021 Helicon Awards [Internet archive link] yesterday, some to bestselling sff writers, two to L. Jagi Lamplighter and Declan Finn, but if you want to know what’s really on Richard’s mind look at this entry on the list:

  • John W. Campbell Diversity in SF/F Award – J.K. Rowling

Paolinelli also presented awards named for Melvil Dewey and Laura Ingalls Wilder, which he created after their names were removed from two American Library Association awards in recent years.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Cyberpunk 2077” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Cyberpunk 2077 is “the most anticipated release since Cup And Ball 2″ and that it lets gamers wallow in a world which is “not cool, not fun, and everything’s broken.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/14/20 Don’t Need A Pixelman To Know Which Way The File Scrolls

(1) BALLOTS TO BEAM UP. The Guardian takes notes as “Biden campaign targets Trekkies with star studded Star Trek event”.

They did indeed boldly go.

Politicians are fond of telling the electorate that “every vote counts”, and Joe Biden’s campaign went far out on Tuesday night when it held a virtual rally targeting the Star Trek voting bloc.

Hosted by Democatic politicians Stacey Abrams, Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang, “Trek the vote to victory!” was an unusual campaign event – featuring a raft of Star Trek stars including Patrick Stewart, Mulgrew and George Takei, and apparently aimed firmly at Trekkies.

The rally offered the latest example of how Biden has attracted celebrities to his campaign, and it also provided a chance for whoever runs the Biden campaign Twitter account to do a joke.

…It was Yang, who ran against Biden for the Democratic nomination, who opened up the event, the self-professed “math nerd” proving himself to be a keen trekker.

Things didn’t go immediately to plan, however, when one of the Star Trek actors – 19 cast members, from five iterations of the show, appeared at the event – immediately praised a policy idea that Yang had championed, and that Biden has ignored.

“I just want to say thank you for bringing the idea of universal basic income into the mainstream of political conversation,” Will Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: Next Generation, told Yang.

“It’s super important and there’s no excuse for that not to go forward.”

Universal basic income – the idea of the government giving every adult a regular stipend – was Yang’s key issue during his presidential campaign, but it is not a part of Biden’s plans for government.

The awkwardness continued as Marina Sirtis, aka Counselor Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, used the Biden event to offer very faint praise for the Democratic nominee.

“I mean I lean very left,” Sirtis said. “But this time we had to just find someone who can beat Trump.”…

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLE’S. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune keeps shaking up foot-dragging bureaucrats who stand in the way of efforts to rebuild on the lot where Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore stood. “In Minneapolis, a parking dispute delays Chicago Avenue rebuilding project”.

… City officials did not reverse course until a Star Tribune reporter inquired about the stalled project. On Thursday, Barbarawi received an e-mail informing him that he can use the slab for parking, at least on a temporary basis.

“I apologize for the confusion,” wrote Brad Ellis, manager of zoning administration and enforcement for Minneapolis….

… Over the summer, Barbarawi struck a deal with Blyly to buy the bookstore property. With three large concrete slabs, the parcel offers ready-make parking for as many as 10 cars. But the plans hit a roadblock when Barbarawi shared his proposal with a city inspector, who insisted that all of the slabs be removed immediately.

[Steve Poor, the city’s director of development services] said the project was stopped because the Minneapolis City Council limited parking in the neighborhood years ago. Though Barbarawi’s building would normally be allowed to have up to 15 parking spaces, the code change brought that down to 12.

Barbarawi was told he could seek city approval for a new parking lot once he finalizes his expansion plans, but he and Blyly objected since it would cost another $25,000 to remove the slabs and meet the city’s other requirements, and even more money to rebuild the parking lot.

“It’s such a waste of resources that doesn’t need to be spent,” said Andy Ristrom, the project manager at Bolander who has been overseeing the demolition work.

Poor, who approved the temporary parking arrangement for Barbarawi, said the city will likely struggle with other rebuilding projects.

“We recognize that people need assistance to guide them through the government,” Poor said. “And right now we just have a lot more new and novel problems to try and address. I am not sure anybody was prepared to make this kind of pivot that we’ve all had to make in the last six months.”

Blyly said he’s glad the city found a way to compromise, but he’s not sure he will be rebuilding in Minneapolis. He’s considering a move to St. Paul or Richfield.

“It would be more convenient for me and a lot of my customers if I stayed in Minneapolis, but Minneapolis has felt very unfriendly toward businesses — especially after the riots,” Blyly said.

(3) STICK A FORK IN IT. LA Comic Con is now officially cancelled says SYFY Wire. While this seemed inevitable, they had announced plans to run in December. The con’s now rescheduled for September 24-26, 2021.

…”Last week on Oct. 7, Gov. Newsom finally gave an update on reopening plans for theme parks, which most people thought would precede event and convention guidelines,” reads the L.A. Comic-Con website. “In his announcement, the Governor said he had decided NOT to provide reopening guidelines yet for theme parks, and by extension, events. Without guidelines, there is no way for L.A. County, the City, or event organizers like us to know if the plans and changes we made to be safe will be right, or enough. So with that new direction from the State, we are rescheduling.”

(4) REMEMBERING A SFF PIONEER. Czech diplomat and sff fan Jaroslav Olsa Jr. commemorated the anniversary of Miles J. Breuer’s death (3 Jan 1889 – 14 Oct 1945) today by posting an excerpt of his forthcoming article “Pioneering Sf Writer Of Gernsback´s Amazing Stories Has Died Exactly 75 Years Ago”. “But do you know he was Czech? And do you know that he wrote many of his science fiction stories originally in Czech?”

…For its first nine issues, Amazing Stories [founded in 1926] contained classics from the likes of Verne, Wells and Edgar Allan Poe, supplemented by more modern works from speculative fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs and fantastic fiction writer Abraham Merritt, both of whom were already publishing their works in pulp magazines.

Only in subsequent years did Amazing Stories feature a new generation of writers. In 1928, Jack Williamson, whose career as a science fiction writer would span three-quarters of a century, published his first story in the magazine. A year earlier, Amazing Stories featured a story by David H. Keller, one of the pioneers of early technological “scientifiction”. However, the very first writer in this wave is the now largely forgotten Miles J. Breuer. His story “The Man with the Strange Head” was published by Gernsback in the January 1927 issue – as soon as the serialization of Wells’ The First Men in the Moon concluded.

Breuer was born in Chicago, studied in Texas, became a doctor in Nebraska and died in Los Angeles. At the turn of the 1920s and 30s, Breuer’s readers viewed this author, who was supposedly “discovered” by Gernsback, as a major star of the science fiction genre. However, Breuer’s career as a writer did not begin with Amazing Stories. Rather, his first genre tale had already been published almost two decades prior. Indeed, writing under the Czech version of his name as Miloslav J. Breuer, the author had already published numerous stories in the Czech language (which were subsequently published in English in early science fiction magazines)….

(5) FANS ON THE BOARDS. UK fanhistory site THEN host Rob Hansen has added a page listing “Dramatic Presentations By Fans At UK Conventions”.

…While produced by fans and sometimes including fannish references, the majority of these productions are not actually *about* fandom the main focus in most cases being the parody of other works, hence the FAN and SF/PARODY distinction. The line between the two is often a fine one, however, and some may disagree with the side of it on which some of these have been placed.

Most of these productions were humorous. The few that were serious have been labelled DRAMA. You’ll notice that one – and only one – production was also labelled ‘BALLET’. This was performed to the strains of ‘Danse Macabre’ and featured several male fans in panto drag, including Ted Tubb! Sadly, only two photos of this ‘ballet’ are known to survive….

Hansen adds: “I also recently discovered a pile of production photos the Liverpool Group took while filming ‘May We Have The Pleasure?’ in 1957. These can be found via the link on the above page.”

(6) MEADOWS OBIT. TeleRead’s main contributor Chris Meadows died today. He was 47. He had been seriously injured in an electric bike accident last week. TeleRead’s tribute is here.

…Chris has been ebooking since the late 1990s and, except for some time at The Digital Reader, has been writing for us since 2006. He has also run his own blogs, including That’s All I Have to Say, full of miscellaneous essays as readable as his TeleRead posts.

An SF fan, Chris is author of The Geek’s Guide to Indianapolis: A Tour Guide for Con Gamers and Other Visitors, well-received by Kindle readers.

Over the years Chris also left some fearless comments here, not the least being the time he called on me to furnish “A bit more precision in your writeup, please.” Something I probably need to be reminded of nearly every day.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty five years ago at Intersection, Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold would win the Best Novel Hugo. It would also win the Locus Award for Best SF novel, and was on the long list for a Nebula.  It was the ninth published novel in the universe of the Vorkosigan Saga.  It was published by Baen Books the previous year. Runner-ups were Mother of Storms by John Barnes, Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress, Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop and Towing Jehovah by James Morrow. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 14, 1829 – August Malmström.  Collected motifs from Norse mythology.  Professor at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, later its manager.  Bequeathed 650 watercolors and drawings, 26 sketchbooks to the Nordic Museum on Djurgården.  Here is Dancing Fairies; see this one too.  Here is King Heimer and Aslög.  (Died 1901) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1877 – Grace Wiederseim.  Pioneering woman cartoonist.  Invented the Campbell Soup Kids.  Also Dolly Dingle dolls.  Cartoonist for Hearst (first woman cartoonist he hired) drawing e.g. Dolly Dimples and Bobby Bounce).  For us e.g. Molly and the Unwiseman Abroad.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1893 – Lois Lenski.  Author, illustrator (of others’ work too, e.g. first ed’n of The Little Engine That Could; Hugh Lofting’s Twilight of Magic which puts her with us).  Prose, poetry, lyrics, plays, paper dolls.  Newbery Medal, two Newbery Honors; Regina Medal; three honorary doctorates.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1894 – E.E. Cummings.  (In fact he wrote his name with capital letters.)  Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Harvard, how do you like them apples, hey?  Master poet.  Distinctive, inimitable style (proof, many have tried and failed).  A nice question whether his poetry or Shakespeare’s is more attractive or more substantial – answer, yes.  Anyone wondering what he has to do with us may read this.  (Died 1962) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1910 – Marian Place.  A tireless researcher, a strong opinionated woman.  Fifty books for children and adults.  Four Golden Spur awards.  For us e.g. The First Astrowitches.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1926 1953 — Richard Christian Matheson. Son of fiction writer and screenwriter Richard Matheson. He is the author of over 100 short stories of psychological horror and magic realism which are gathered in over 150 major anthologies and in his short story collections Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks, Dystopia and ZoopraxisBest 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 October 14, 1927 Roger Moore. Bond in seven films 1973 to 1985, a long run indeed. And he played Simon Templar in The Saint for most of the Sixties, one hundred and eighteen episodes. Let’s not forget that he was in the Curse of the Pink Panther as Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau! (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born October 14, 1935 – Dennis Hamley, 85.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories for us (including “Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick”).  Other fiction and nonfiction.  His first book was three medieval Mystery Plays in modern versions for schools, so a few years later he imagined a boy led back into the 14th Century.  DH talks about his life and work at his Website.  [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1946 Katy Manning, 74. She was Jo Grant, companion to the Third Doctor. She also appeared with the Eleventh Doctor on the Sarah Jane Adventures in a two-part story entitled “Death of the Doctor”. She appears as herself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE)
  • Born October 14, 1953 Greg Evigan, 67. TekWar, one of Shatner’s better ideas, starred him as Jake Cardigan. I really liked it. Yes. Shatner was in it. He also shows up in DeepStar Six as Kevin McBride, as Will South in the horror film Spectre aka The House of The Damned, as Marcus Cutter in Cerberus: The Guardian of Hell, and on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents as David Whitmore in “In the Driver’s Seat”. (CE) 
  • Born October 14, 1956 Martin Millar, 64. Among his accomplishments was the novelization of the Tank Girl film. Apparently it’s even weirder than the film was! He won the World Fantasy Award for best novel with his book Thraxas, and the entire Thraxas series which are released under the name Martin Scott are a lot of not at all serious pulpish fun. (CE)
  • Born October 14, 1963 Lori Petty, 56. Rebecca Buck – “Tank Girl” in that film. She was also Dr. Lean Carli in Cryptic, and Dr. Sykes in Dead Awake. She had one-offs in The HungerTwilight ZoneStar Trek: Voyager, BrimstoneFreddy’s Nightmares and Alien Nation, and voiced Livewire in the DCU animated shows. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) RINGO FAN FAVORITES. The winners in the 2020 Ringo Award Fan Favorite categories, sponsored by Rocketship Entertainment, were announced today.

FAN FAVORITES

Favorite Hero: Clove from SubZero (WEBTOON)

Favorite Villain: John from unOrdinary (WEBTOON)

Favorite New Series: Fangs

Favorite New Talent: Sinran

Favorite Publisher: Tapas

The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards will be presented virtually on October 24 as part of The Baltimore Comic-Con streaming presentation (baltimorecomicconlive.com).

(11) FAN ADAPTATION OF WATTS HUGO FINALIST. At Tor.com, Andrew Liptak urges readers to “Watch This Superb Fan Adaptation of Peter Watts’ Blindsight.

Peter Watts’ Blindsight looked at first contact with aliens in a different way when it was first published in 2006, and it’s been one of those books that friends have fervently recommended in the years since.

One fan [Danil Krivoruchko] has taken it upon himself to adapt as a short film, which he released this week: a short CGI short that looks absolutely stunning….

“Danil reached out to me pretty close to the start of the process,” Watts commented. “They were in the ‘Let’s make a tribute fan site’ phase, which as I understand it fell somewhere between the ‘let’s do a couple of CG illustrations for the rifters gallery’ and ‘Let’s blow off the doors with a trailer from an alternate universe where someone made a movie out of Blindsight’ phases.”…

(12) CAN’T SLEEP? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I’m not sure where “The 52 Stages Of Insomnia” by Marco Kaye at McSweeney’s fits in the File 770 categories but it’s definitely fannish!

(13) RIDING THE CIRCUIT. It’s looked cool in comics – will it look cool on you? “New Technology Allows Circuits To Be Printed Directly On The Skin”.

Sensors printed directly on the skin have been inching closer to commercial reality in recent years. The dream of highly sensitive sensors could have a wide array of applications, from robotics to medicine, but the field has been limited by its method of circuit printing. Currently, printing circuits directly on the skin requires a lot of heat – something the skin isn’t generally fond of.

Now, researchers believe they may have solved this problem. A team from Penn State University have developed a method of fabricating high-performance circuitry directly on skin without heat, according to a study published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

While flexible sensors already exist and have applications in future physiological monitoring, applying that technology to the skin has remained an issue for scientists. If this process is viable on a large scale, it may pave the way for the technology to help patients with various conditions. 

(14) CHANGE OF SHIFT. “Russian, US astronauts launch to International Space Station” – ABC News has the story.

A trio of space travelers has launched successfully to the International Space Station, for the first time using a fast-track maneuver to reach the orbiting outpost in just three hours.

NASA’s Kate Rubins and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled Wednesday morning from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station.

…“We’re planning to try some really interesting things like bio-printing tissues and growing cells in space and, of course, continuing our work on sequencing DNA,” Rubins said.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Scream” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the 1996 film, from a more innocent time when people didn’t lock their doors and a cop could ask a teenager, “What are you doing with this cellular telephone, son?””

[Thanks to Howard Beale, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Rob Thornton, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 10/3/20 Travels With
My Ancillary

(1) PENRIC IS BACK. Lois McMaster Bujold told readers on Facebook “Penric 9 impending”.

I am pleased to report that I’ve finished the first draft of a new Penric & Desdemona novella. The title will be “Masquerade in Lodi”. The final editing pass/es are still to go, and will take the usual unknown amount of time, but artist Ron Miller is beforehand with the cover art.

It’s a sort of pocket prequel, a small-scale tale taking place over one day, set during the period Penric spent working for the archdivine of Adria about a year before his big Cedonian adventure. So in terms of internal chronology, it falls between “Penric’s Fox” and “Penric’s Mission”. It is at the moment a mid-sized novella, about 33k words.

She also said the release of Baen’s mass market paperback edition of the first collection Penric’s Progress is set for February 2021 (with “Penric’s Demon”, “Penric and the Shaman” and “Penric’s Fox”.)

(2) ISFIC WRITERS CONTEST. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Although Windycon will not take place as an in-person convention this year (and a further announcement about that is coming this week), we will be running the ISFiC Writers Contest.  Updated rules and timeline at located here.

The contest is open to anyone who was a member of Windycon 46, Windycon 47 in 2020, or Windycon 47 in 2021, as well as anyone resident in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, or Wisconsin.

First Prize

  •  $300.00
  •  Windycon 47 in 2021 Membership
  •  Double Room for Windycon 47 in 2021
  •  The winning story will be included in the Windycon 47 in 2021 program book and archived on the ISFiC Website.

Honorable Mentions (Up to 2)

  •  American 1 oz. Silver Coin

(3) HEAR IGUANACON II. Audio recordings of 19 panels/events at Iguanacon II, the 1978 World Science Fiction Convention have been posted by Hal C. F. Astell on the AZ Fandom website. Some of the panels available are —

  • Unexplored Archetypes and Mythologies (Octavia Butler, William Wu, Diana Paxson, Paul Edwin Zimmer) (1:14:39, 179 MB)
  • Life on a Neutron Star (Dr. Robert L. Forward) (1:28:18, 212 MB)
  • Art as an Outlet for Changemakers (Jeanne Gomoll, D. C. Fontana, Virginia Aalko, CJ Cherryh) (1:07:09, 161 MB)
  • Critic’s Circle (Bill Patterson, Avedon Carol, Mike Glyer, Gary Farber, Tom Perry, Ted White) (1:04:03, 154 MB)
  • Dialogue (Samuel R. Delany, Robert Silverberg) (44:39, 107 MB)

(4) A TRIO OF MENTORS. From the Odyssey Writing Workshops come three Odyssey Podcasts — #129 (Holly Black), #130 (E.C. Ambrose) & #131 (Scott H. Andrews)

Holly Black was a guest lecturer at the 2019 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from her question-and-answer session, Holly answers questions about writing young adult and middle grade fiction. One student points out that some people think fantastic creatures must be a certain way. How do you deal with those expectations? Holly says that when writing in a tradition, you’re adding to a conversation. Bring your own perspective into the conversation based on who you are….

E. C. Ambrose was a guest lecturer at Odyssey 2020. In this excerpt from her lecture on generating plot from the heart of your story, Elaine talks about “How to Middle,” how to use plot turns to avoid getting mired in the muddy middle. Many writers get stuck after the opening section of their novel or story. Once the characters and situation have been introduced, we need to start playing with those elements, using plot turns and plotting tools. Plot turns change the trajectory of a plot or change the meaning of the story in the mind of the reader. Elaine explains different types of plot turns: the time bomb, the time trap, the crucible, the dilemma, the reversal, the revelation, the confrontation, and natural elements. A lot of flash fiction has a single plot turn, usually a reversal or a revelation. Plot turns can be presented in different ways: through dialogue, action, thought, or narration. The rate of plot turns is a significant factor in the pace of a story.

In Winter 2019, Scott H. Andrews, editor and publisher of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, taught the Odyssey Online course Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers, and he’ll be teaching an expanded version of the class this winter. In this excerpt from the first class, Scott shares an example from Angela Hunt, in which she describes how reading the sequel to Gone with the Wind had her in tears after a few pages. A character died, one that she had a strong attachment to from the first book. The sequel tapped into the well of emotion she already had. That’s what stories need to do; they need to make the reader feel something by leveraging readers’ past experiences. For writers, this task breaks into two parts. First, the writer needs to get the emotion into the story so the reader understands it. That means making the emotion clear and obvious enough that the reader picks it up. Many writers tend to be overly subtle or oblique about emotion, so it doesn’t come through. Second, the writer needs to make the reader feel the emotion. This involves using concrete images, using the physical rather than the cerebral, and conveying emotion through the prose. Common weaknesses include lack of specificity, ambiguity, and lack of honesty. Writers may flinch from what something really feels like.

(5) THERE’S NO FIGHTING IN THE WAR ROOM. Nor in the utopian Federation of th 24th century.The Hollywood Reporter interviews Ronald D. Moore about “The Classic ‘Star Trek’ Episode Gene Roddenberry ‘Hated’”.

…“Family,” which debuted Oct. 1, 1990, is an outlier among Star TrekThe Next Generation episodes; it’s the only episode with no scenes set on the Enterprise-D bridge or to not feature Data (Brent Spinter). It’s also special in that there is no sci-fi B-plot. It’s an off-premise character drama exploring the lives of Picard, Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) and Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) as the Enterprise undergoes repairs post-Borg attack while orbiting Earth. What may seem dull on paper is a compelling and, at times, heartstrings-tugging affair that adds much necessary depth and emotion to three of sci-fi’s most memorable characters.

It’s ironic that an episode loved by so many fans was met with disdain by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

“Gene really hated it,” recalls Moore of his initial story meeting with Roddenberry…. 

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty-five years ago, the Mythopiec Award for Adult Fantasy went to Patricia A. McKillip for her Something Rich and Strange novel. It was written for Brian Froud’s Faerielands series under the creative impulse of Froud’s art. It was published by Bantam Spectra in 1994. It would be her second major award, her first being the World Fantasy Award for The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 3, 1862 – Alice Woodward.  Prolific illustrator.  For us, children’s books e.g. Adventures in ToylandThe Peter Pan Picture BookAlice in Wonderland; also Bon Mots of the Eighteenth Century; Gilbert & Sullivan; science.  Here are Peter Pan and Wendy flying.  Here are Alice and the Caterpillar.  Here is Robert Browning’s Pied Piper.  Here is a fairy opening a book.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born October 3, 1874 Charles Middleton. He is no doubt best remembered for his role as the Emperor Ming the Merciless in the three Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940 which is only genre production he appeared in save three chapters of a Forties Batman serial in which he played Ken Colton. (Died 1949) (CE) 
  • Born October 3, 1924 – Harvey Kurtzman.  Founding editor of Mad.  Earned more money by getting Playboy to include Little Annie Fanny which, let’s face it, was exquisitely designed for its market – and satirized its readers.  Taught (“Satirical Cartooning”) at the NY School of Visual Arts.  European Acad. Comic Book Art Lifetime Achievement Award.  Harvey Award named for him.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born October 3, 1931 – Ray Nelson, 89.  Eight novels, a score of shorter stories (notably “Eight O’Clock in the Morning”); famed and distinctive as a fanartist, not least for inventing the propeller beanie: the direct connection from Ray to Time for Beany and Beany & Cecil on one tentacle, and numberless drawings in fanzines on another, is known.  Rotsler Award.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born October 3, 1935 Madlyn Rhue. She was in “Space Seed” as Lt. Marla McGivers, Khan Noonien Singh’s (Ricardo Montalbán) love interest. Other genre appearances included being on the original Fantasy Island as Lillie Langtry in “Legends”,  nd Maria in the “Firefall” episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born October 3, 1948 – Marilyn Singer, 72.  Over a hundred children’s and young adults’ books; fantasies, realistic novels, nonfiction, poetry.  Cybil Award for Mirror, Mirror (reversible verse).  Here is Turtle in July.  Here is Sky Words.  Here is The Dog Who Insisted He Wasn’t (her first).  Here is The Circus Lunicus.  See her in Wikipedia.  [JH]
  • Born October 3, 1964 Clive Owen, 56. First role I saw him in was the title role of Stephen Crane in the Chancer series. Not genre, but fascinating none the less. He’s been King Arthur in the film of the same name where Keira Knightley was Guinevere. He also was in Sin City as Dwight McCarthy, and in The Pink Panther (though weirdly uncredited) as Nigel Boswell/Agent 006. I’ll also single him out for being Commander Arun Filitt in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. (CE) 
  • Born October 3, 1969 – Colleen Houck, 51.  After 17 years a sign-language interpreter she self-published Tiger’s Curse which became a NY Times Best Seller; five sequels.  Reawakened and three sequels another best-seller.  Recently The Lantern’s Ember.  “Indian mythology is very complex … the same god or goddess can have … incarnations with different names, appearances, and personality traits.  My Indian mythology is ‘westernized’…. don’t try to pass a test … based on my version … I hoped to make it … real enough that if you happened to visit Hampi you’d look for the statue and the entrance to Kishkindha.”  Don’t miss her husband’s caption glasses.  [JH]
  • Born October 3, 1973 Lena Headey, 47. Many of you will know her as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones but I liked her sociopathic Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal on the most awesome Dredd much better. She was also Angelika in The Brothers Grimm, a film I’m sure I’ve seen but remember nothing about even though Heath Ledger was in it. (CE) 
  • Born October 3, 1984 Jessica Parker Kennedy, 36. She played Melissa Glaser on The Secret Circle, and was Nora West-Allen / XS on The Flash; on Smallville, she had the recurring role of Bette Sans Souci / Plastique. Next she was in the principal cast of Black Sails as Max but I’ll leave it to you to judge if that show was genre. (CE) 
  • Born October 3, 1987 – Katsuie Shibata, 33.  (Pen name of Shôta Watatani; the original 1522-1583 was a trusted general of Nobunaga Oda 1534-1582 famous in song and story; in Japanese style these are all reversed, with personal name e.g. Nobunaga last)  Won the second Hayakawa SF Contest with Niruya Island.  Since then, World Insurance (3 vols.), “Southern Cross”, “Princess Diary”, “Quarantine Officer”.  Here he is imagining education in 2036 for Ricoh.  [JH]
  • Born October 3, 1988 Alicia Vikander, 32.She was Ava, an artificial intelligence, in Ex Machina, spooky film it was. Several years later, she starred as Lara Croft in the rebooted Tomb Raider. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E., she plays Gaby Teller. Finally she’s The Lady / Esel in The Green Knight, a retelling of the story of Sir Gawain. It’s listed as forthcoming this year.  (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Heathcliff has a new physical fatness program.
  • The Flying McCoys is amusing if you get the reference. And how could you not?
  • Lio discovers just what his jack-o‘-lantern needs.

(9) SUPER FOR SOME. LAist celebrates a milestone anniversary: “Somewhere In Time: How A Time Travel Romance Starring Superman Found Its Fans”.

Saturday, Oct. 3 marks the 40th anniversary of Somewhere in Time, a film that took one of the longest, weirdest journeys to popularity. It was savaged at the box office for being stodgy, overly romantic, and out of touch. But today, it’s a cult favorite, beloved for the very qualities it was panned for. Its fan base includes retired 4-star General Colin Powell, a couple of FilmWeek critics, and me.

… Christopher Reeve, fresh from Superman, is the playwright. Jane Seymour, then of Battlestar Galactica, is the actress. And Christopher Plummer, who had just killed as Sherlock Holmes in Murder by Decree, is her controlling manager. The bestselling score was by John Barry, and it was directed by Jeannot Szwarc — who had just saved Universal’s butt by taking over Jaws 2….

(10) SLF SCORES ILLINOIS GRANT. Speculative Literature Foundation director Mary Anne Mohanraj announced the Illinois Arts Council has awarded the SLF a grant for $1700, “which will be a big help as we continue to build out the Portolan Project.” She extended thanks to their Development Director Cee Gee, and to UIC spring interns Darius Vinesar and Emmanuel Henderson “who helped us research and build out a database of grants we should be applying for.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/16/20 Let Us Pixelate It In Glorious Scrollovision

(1) THE EXPANSE REACHES ITS LIMIT. “Leviathan Falls Will Be The Final Installment of The Expanse” – Andrew Liptak has the story at Tor.com.

During a live stream today, Orbit Books officially announced the title and cover for the final installment of James S.A. Corey’s science fiction series, The ExpanseLeviathan Falls, which will hit stores sometime in 2021 .

…Orbit didn’t release any synopsis for the book, but Abraham and Franck did explain that the novel will provide a definitive ending for the series.

During the live stream, Abraham and Franck answered a handful of reader questions. In addition to Leviathan Falls, they plan to have another novella that’ll come out after that final book, which will provide a “nice grace note” to some hanging threads from the series. Abraham noted that he’s been waiting to write the story for “years.”

Franck explained that they don’t plan to write any novels in the world, but that Alcon could always put together another Expanse-related project for television.

(2) RSR UPDATE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender announced today in “Taking a Break” that he’ll be on hiatus as a short fiction reviewer —

After five years of writing reviews for Rocket Stack Rank, I’m going to take an indefinite break. This month marks five years since we started the site, and so it seemed like a good time to pause.

Eric Wong says he will continue to update RSR with monthly lists of stories that readers can flag and rate and find reviews for, as well as aggregate recommendations from various sources (currently 6 reviewers, 16 awards, 7 year’s best anthologies) for the Year-To-Date and Year’s Best lists. 

Hullender adds:

Five years ago, in September 2015, Eric and I started Rocket Stack Rank as a response to the Sad/Rabid Puppy episode that ruined the 2015 Hugo Awards. As we said at the time, we wanted “to create a website to encourage readers of science fiction and fantasy to read and nominate more short fiction.”

The response was very positive, and we’ve enjoyed steady support from readers. We quickly ramped up to a few thousand unique monthly users, with 20-30,000 monthly page views (we recently passed 1,000,000 total page views), and we’re currently the #1 Google result for “short science fiction story reviews.” Best of all, we were finalists for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine three times (2017, 2018, 2019). Thank you for supporting us!

(3) ANOTHER VIEW OF ROWLING’S CONTROVERSIAL LATEST. Alison Flood, in “JK Rowling’s Troubled Blood: don’t judge a book by a single review” in The Guardian, says she’s read Rowling’s Troubled Blood and although there are parts she says are “tone-deaf” that she doesn’t consider the novel “transphobic” since the cross-dressing character is not the main villain and is not described as trans or even a transvestite.

…Perhaps some will still consider this depiction transphobic, given Rowling’s rightly widely criticised views on trans people. It is, at best, an utterly tone-deaf decision to include an evil man who cross-dresses after months of pain among trans people and their allies. But there is also reason to be wary of any moral outrage stoked by the Telegraph, a paper that generally doesn’t shy away from publishing jeering at the “woke crowd”, or claims that children are “put at risk by transgender books”, or attacks on “the trans lobby”. And we should also be wary of how one review has been reproduced without question by countless newspapers and websites, by journalists who have shown no indication of having read the book themselves.

(4) GREETINGS GATES. “‘Star Trek’ Alum Gates McFadden To Host Nacelle Company’s First Podcast” reports Yahoo! Entertainment. The title: Who Do You Think You Are?

…The McFadden-fronted podcast will be the first one from the Nacelle Company and serves as a stepping stone for its NacelleCast Studios, the company’s neighboring podcast studio in Burbank. The new podcast studio will serve as the main production space for all NacelleCast productions.

The Nacelle Company has created a number of pop history-focused titles including Netflix’s The Movies That Made UsThe Toys That Made Us and the CW’s Discontinued. Branching into the podcast space is a step in the company’s efforts to broaden its reach of pop history-focused content.

(5) STATUS QUO VADIS. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will probe “Is Science Fiction Really the Literature of Change?” in its September 19 program. Register at the link.

Anil Menon is joining Gadi as co-host for a one-hour discussion on science fiction and change, bringing along friends and colleagues Christopher Brown, Claude Lalumière, Geoff Ryman, Nisi Shawl, and Vandana Singh. This Saturday, 19 September.

Arguably, science fiction has had a focus on working out the consequences of a change (what-if scenarios) rather than how a certain change comes to be. This seems to be especially true in the case of social or political change. The distinguished panelists will discuss the possibilities and limitations of (science) fiction for representing a changing world.

(6) GENUINE PIXEL NEWS. Plans for a Japanese adaptation of The Door Into Summer were unveiled on Twitter. Thread starts here.

(7) UNDERTALE CONCERT. Beginning at the 45-minute mark in this YouTube video, you can listen to the full orchestral concert that was staged for the 5th anniversary of the video game Undertale.

Polygon’s Patricia Hernandez tells why “Undertale’s surprise concert got the internet in its feelings”

This is probably why many folks who watched the concert last night absolutely got in their feelings about the game. The top comment on the YouTube video says, “I cried like twice through the whole thing.” I saw the same sentiment unfold across my Twitter timeline, where folks reminisced on the game’s highlights and what it meant to them when they played it. It was a total mood shift from the general depressing and terrifying tenor of the year. Undertale is, at its heart, an optimistic game about friendship and love. 

(8) LOOKING FOR SIGNS. In a Washington Post opinion piece, “Venus may hold the answers about life we’ve been looking for”, Cornell University astronomer Jonathan Lunine says that the discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus might mean that Venus had, and possibly has, life.

…How would we know such organisms might exist? Many chemical compounds that simple microbes produce are also made by non-biological processes. But one, phosphine or PH3, is difficult to produce on Earth abiotically (without life) and, as argued by Seager and her colleagues in another paper, could be a good “biosignature” or sign of life on planets around other stars. This isn’t always the case: The compound is found in the dense hydrogen-rich atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, where it is understood to be an abiotic product of simple chemistry, and will likely be found on gas giants around other stars using the James Webb Space Telescope, planned for launch next year. But Venus — which has an atmosphere in which hydrogen is extremely scarce — is a place where phosphine is a plausible biosignature.

The detection of sufficient quantities of phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere would be an intriguing pointer to the possibility of life in the sulfuric-acid clouds of our sister planet, but many questions would remain. Is it possible that planetary chemists have overlooked ways to produce phosphine on Venus in the absence of life? And if phosphine is produced by biology, where did that life originate? It is one thing to imagine life adapting to and hanging out opportunistically in the clouds of Venus. It is quite another to imagine that life could have originated there, sandwiched between the hell of the surface and the frozen realms of the thin upper atmosphere….

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 1995 — Twenty five years ago this month at Intersection, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance won the Hugo for Best Novel. Other finalists were John Barnes’ Mother of Storms, Nancy Kress‘s Beggars and Choosers, Michael Bishop‘s Brittle Innings and James Morrow’s Towing Jehovah.  It would be the third Hugo winner of the Vorkosigan saga, and Bujold’s third Hugo award-winning novel in a row. It’s  the direct sequel to Brothers in Arms. The Vorkosigan saga would win the Best Series Hugo at Worldcon 75. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 16, 1898 Hans Augusto Rey. German-born American illustrator and author best remembered for the beloved  Curious George children’s book series that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966. (An Eighties series of five-minute short cartoons starring him was produced by Alan Shalleck, along with Rey. Ken Sobol, scriptwriter of Fantastic Voyage, was the scriptwriter here.) His interest in astronomy led to him drawing star maps which are still use in such publications as Donald H. Menzel’s A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. A simpler version for children called Find the Constellations, is still in print as well. (Died 1977.) (CE) 
  • Born September 16, 1917 – Art Widner.  Pioneer in earliest days, he left for a few decades to teach school, beget children, other mundane matters, then returned, resuming his fanzine YHOS (“Your Humble Obedient Servant”, pronounced ee-hoss though I said it should rhyme with dose), the Eo-Neo.  See here.  Here is his cover for the Mar 40 Spaceways.  On his board game Interplanetary see here.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  YHOS first took my note on The Glass Bead Game.  As of his passing he may have been Oldest of All; rooming with him at a few cons, I promised not to call him “Woody” (see Mary Sperling in Methuselah’s Children).  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1916 Mary, Lady Stewart (born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, lovely name that). Yes, you know her better as just Mary Stewart. Genre wise, she’s probably best known for her Merlin series which walks along the boundary between the historical novel and fantasy. Explicitly fantasy is her children’s novel A Walk in Wolf Wood: A Tale of Fantasy and Magic. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born September 16, 1930 — Anne Francis. You’ll remember her best as Altaira “Alta” Morbius on Forbidden Planet. She also appeared twice in The Twilight Zone (“The After Hours” and “Jess-Belle”). She also appeared in multiple episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She’d even appear twice in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and played several roles on Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born September 16, 1932 Peter Falk. His best remembered role genre is in The Princess Bride as the Grandfather who narrates the Story. The person who replaced him in the full cast reading of The Princess Bride for the Wisconsin Democratic Party fundraiser, Director Rob Reiner, wasn’t nearly as good as he was in that role. He also plays Ramos Clemente in “The Mirror”,  an episode of The Twilight Zone. And he’s Reverend Theo Kerr in the 2001 version of The Lost World. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born September 16, 1932 – Karen Anderson.  Fan and pro herself, wife of another, mother of a third, mother-in-law of a fourth.  While still Karen Kruse she was WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) secretary and joined SAPS (Spectator Amateur Press Society) and The Cult.  Marrying Poul Anderson she moved to the San Francisco Bay area, bore Astrid, and thus was mother by marriage to Greg Bear.  Stellar quality also in filk, costuming, and our neighbor the Society for Creative Anachronism.  At an SF con party a few decades ago I arrived in English Regency clothes having just taught Regency dancing; she sang “How much is that Dukie in the window?”  See here; appreciation by OGH here.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1938 – Owen Hannifen, 82.  How he found the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.; “LASFS” pronounced as if rhyming with a Spanish-English hybrid “mas fuss”, unless you were Len Moffatt, who rhymed it with “sass mass” and had earned the right to do it his way) minutes, then and now known as The Menace of the LASFS, I’ve never learned; with a good Secretary – Jack Harness, Mike Glyer, John DeChancie – they’ve been swell; anyway they lured OH to L.A. (from Vermont?), where he roomed with Harness and others in a series of apartments, the Labyrinth, Labyrinth 3, Labyrinth of Valeron, Labyrinth DuQuesne (see here).  He was in N’APAOMPA, SAPS, and The Cult.  Dungeons & Dragons was fire-new then; he and his wife Hilda (also “Eclaré”) did that.  They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, Sampo Productions (named for the magic sampo in “Why the Sea Is Salt”), and incidentally the SCA.  [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1948 – Julia Donaldson, C.B.E., 72.  Author, playwright, performer; almost two hundred books.  Famous for The Gruffalo.  Half a dozen stories of Princess Mirror-Belle.  Busked in America, England, France, Italy.  Bristol Street Theatre, British Broadcasting Corp., Edinburgh Book Festival.  Honorary doctorates from Univ. Bristol, Univ. Glasgow.  Children’s Laureate of the United Kingdom 2011-2013.  Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1952 Lisa Tuttle, 68. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute”, which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include CatwitchThe Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection. Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross. (CE) 
  • Born September 16, 1960 – Kurt Busiek, 60. Writer for Dark Horse, DC, Dynamite, Eclipse, Harris, Image, Marvel, Topps.  Known particularly for Astro City, Marvels, the Thunderbolts.  Nine Eisners, six Harveys; two Comics Buyer’s Guide Awards for Favorite Writer.  Here he’s interviewed about Conan.  Alex Ross put KB and wife Ann into Marvels 3 reacting to the arrival of the Silver Surfer and Galactus.  I’ll leave out Page 33.  What jewels these Filers be.  [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1960 Mike Mignola, 60. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing What-If story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories  are quite excellent too.  I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, though the animated films are excellent. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1982 – María Zaragoza, 38.  Three short stories for us; novels, poetry, film scripts, graphic novels.  Post-human, anthology of Spanish SF authors.  Atheneum of Valladolid Award, Young Atheneum of Seville Novel Prize.  Part of Fernando Marías Amando’s storytelling collective “Children of Mary Shelley”; of “The Cabin” collective of mutant artists (painters, poets, writers, sculptors, photographers), Ciudad Real.  [JH]

(10b) BELATED BIRTHDAY. Worldcon 76 chair Kevin Roche turned 60 on September 15 — we wish him a cake-full of candles for the occasion!

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy calls it a “new Mary Worth” storyline. Daniel Dern says, “I had to convince myself I hadn’t dreamed it.”
  • Lio discovers what happens when horror movies take over your yard. 
  • Argyle Sweater carves a Pinocchio joke.

(12) CLAREMONT ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL. Marvel Comics will honor the extraordinary career of writer Chris Claremont in December with the Chris Claremont Anniversary Special.

For the past 50 years, Claremont has graced the Marvel Universe with his brilliant storytelling—creating and defining some of its most iconic heroes and building the framework for one of its most treasured franchises.

In the Chris Claremont Anniversary Special, the acclaimed writer returns to the world of the X-Men with a brand-new story. Dani Moonstar is drafted for a mission across time and space for an incredible psychic showdown against the Shadow King—joining forces with other characters created and defined by the pen of Chris Claremont! In this extra-sized milestone issue, Claremont will team up with a host of iconic artists including Brett Booth and reunite with his classic New Mutants collaborator, Bill Sienkiewicz.

…Chris Claremont’s influential run on X-Men changed the comic book landscape forever. As the architect behind the epic tapestry that makes up the world of mutants, Claremont’s contributions went far beyond the creation of characters but to the very themes, concepts, and allegories that are ingrained in the X-Men today. Claremont’s work catapulted the X-Men into unprecedented success with now classic stories such as Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past as well as series like New Mutants and Wolverine’s first solo series. In addition to his groundbreaking work on X-Men titles, Claremont also had memorable runs on books such as Ms. Marvel and Fantastic Four.

(13) SFF IN TIMES TO COME. In “Noah Hawley on ‘Fargo’ Season 4, His ‘Star Trek’ Film and ‘Lucy in the Sky’” at Variety, Hawley says that his Star Trek film would be a new cast, and “we’re not doing Kirk and we’re not doing Picard” but there would be some sort of connection to the original Star Trek series.  He also says that Lucy In The Sky was his “magical-realist astronaut movie.”

Just before “Fargo” returned to production in August, Noah Hawley — the writer who somehow adapted an eccentric and beloved Coen brothers film into one of the most decorated television series of the past decade — sent a letter to the show’s cast and crew. He wrote about the importance of safety. He wrote about mutual responsibility. He wrote about Tom Cruise.

“Someday in the not too distant future Tom Cruise will go to space,” the message began. “He will bring a film crew with him. He will bring a director and actors. They will shoot a film. Now space, as we know, is an airless vacuum where nothing can live. A hostile void where a suit breach or airlock malfunction can kill, where even the simplest tasks must be done methodically, deliberately. Astronauts train for years to prepare. They drill protocols and procedures into their heads. They know that surviving in space will require their full concentration. Now imagine doing all that AND making a movie.”

The “Fargo” crew is rather more earthbound, but Hawley likened its experience to that of Cruise, who is indeed planning a trip to the International Space Station to shoot an action movie. (It was reported in May that he will do this with the help, of course, of Elon Musk.) But before Tom Cruise ascends into space, the cast and crew of “Fargo” are gathering in Chicago to film the final two episodes of the show’s fourth season in a 13-day stretch — five months after being forced to break camp by the coronavirus pandemic.

(14) FIRE BELLS. LAist points out a local science landmark in jeopardy: “What We’ll Lose If The Mt. Wilson Observatory Burns”.

You may not have realized it, but sitting atop one of the highest points in the San Gabriel mountains, looming 5,700 feet over L.A., is arguably one of the world’s most important spots for scientific discovery: the Mount Wilson Observatory.

The 114-year-old site is covered in equipment that not only helped mankind discover the universe and cement Southern California as an astronomy hub, but still connects normal people to wonders beyond our own world.

Worryingly, the Bobcat Fire is charging right for it. Only 500 feet away as of Tuesday afternoon.

(15) GREAT PUMPKINS. Los Angeles County’s Descanso Gardens plans a “Pumpkin-Filled Halloween Event”We Like LA has the story.

Descanso Gardens has announced a month-long fall exhibit for those of you who get really into decorative gourd season. “Halloween at Descanso” is a socially distant, “pumpkin-filled extravaganza” that takes place October 1-31. 

The exhibit is suitable for all ages, so don’t worry about this Halloween event being too scary. Instead, expect a winding hay maze, a house built entirely out of pumpkins, a pumpkin arch that leads to a forest filled with pumpkin-headed scarecrows, and colorful pumpkin mandalas. The pathways that lead to the Hilltop Gardens, the Japanese Garden, and the main promenade will feature hand-carved jack-o-lantern boxes. 

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants struck out on this one.

Category: Summarizing the novel.

Answer: Utopia (not); I ain’t goin’ nowhere; the butler did it (in 1872).

No one got: What is Erewhon.

(17) PRESAGED BY ASIMOV. In the Washington Post article “School, but an ‘undead version’: Students, parents and teachers in Northern Virginia adjust to online learning”, Hannah Natanson interviewed middle school math teacher Jay Bradley, who thinks virtual teaching reminds him of the Asimov story “The Fun They Had.”

Margie went into the schoolroom…and the mechanical teacher was on and waiting for her,’ the passage (from Asimov) read,  ‘The screen was lit up, and it said, ‘Today’s arithmetic lesson is on the addition of proper fractions.  Please insert yesterday’s homework in the proper slot.’  Margie did so with a sigh.”

These days, Bradley–who teaches middle school in Fairfax County Public Schools–feels a lot like the ‘mechanical teacher.’  He spends ever morning huddled ina spare room in his Northern Virginia home staring at his computer screen. The monitor is filled with small rectangles:  Each one depicts an anonymous, identical silhouette.

(19) BORDER, BREED, NOR BIRTH. “Star children: can humans be fruitful and multiply off-planet?”The Space Review weeks the answer.

From his home in Cape Canaveral, Air Force pilot Alex Layendecker explained how he had been drawn to the study of sex and reproduction in space. “I had been immersed in the space environment in the Air Force, assigned to launch duty, and was simultaneously pursuing an M.A. in public health, and then at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and I was looking for a dissertation topic,” he recalled. “I decided that sex and reproduction in space had not received the attention they deserved—if we’re serious about discussions of colonization, having babies in microgravity—on Mars or other outposts of the Earth, then more needs to be learned.” His general recommendation was that because of the squeamishness of NASA to study sex in space, a private nonprofit organization, or Astrosexological Research Institute, should be founded for this research critical to human settlement of outer space.

What were the prospects for space-based sex lives? Layendecker’s study of the literature yielded both good and bad news. Sex should be possible, even lively, but reproduction, critical for space colonization, could entail severe health consequences… 

(20) BE SEATED. In Two Chairs Talking Episode 36 – “Marrying the genre next door” — Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg talk about novels which blur the boundaries between genres: literary novels with strong elements of fantasy or science fiction. Call them “genre adjacent” fiction. And David interviews Matthew Hughes, author of the historical fiction novel “What the Wind Brings.”

(21) SHARP, POINTY. The final trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s Antlers has dropped.

A small-town Oregon teacher and her brother, the local sheriff, become entwined with a young student harboring a dangerous secret with frightening consequences.

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

Cats Sleep on SFF:
Biology and Manners

Robin Anne Reid’s cat is taking in the lessons of a new book:

I think I’ve probably talked about this project on File 770, and some filers might be interested (though pre-emptive apologies for cost of it, alas)! Hild sleeping on the just released Biology and Manners collection of essays on Lois McMaster Bujold’s science fiction and fantasy!  


Photos of your felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 6/2/20 The Pixel-Hinged File

(1) WOULD YOU BUY IT FOR A QUARTER? “Royal Mint launches first-ever augmented reality dinosaur coins”.

Royal Mint have released some very special dino coins.

Not only do they have amazing pictures of dinosaurs on them but they also are the first-ever to use augmented reality (AR).

Royal Mint, which makes most of the the UK’s coins, used the latest colour printing techniques to vividly show the megalosaurus, iguanodon and hylaeosaurus on the coins.

It worked closely with experts at the Natural History Museum to try to bring the prehistoric creatures to life.

The coins feature the dinosaurs and show where and when the first fossil was discovered.

After receiving the coin, collectors can use AR to scan the packaging to unearth facts, clips and images about the prehistoric beasts.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The May 2020 entry in the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Scar Tissue” by Tobias S. Buckell.

The evening before you sign and take delivery of your son, you call Charlie and tell him you think you’ve made a huge mistake.

“Let me come on over and split a few with you,” he says. “I haven’t seen the fire pit yet.”

It was published along with a response essay, “When the Robot You Consider Family Tries to Sell You Something” by John Frank Weaver, an attorney who works on AI law, and author of the book Robots Are People Too

… That’s the part that worries me, as artificial intelligence applications may be able to leverage the data to manipulate Cory and other people—just as technology, PR, and marketing companies try to do in our lives today.

(3) A BRAND NEW ENDING. OH BOY. “Missing The Jackpot: William Gibson’s Slow-Cooked Apocalypse” – Robert Barry interviews the author for The Quietus.

“There’s never been a culture that had a mythos of apocalypse in which the apocalypse was a multi-causal, longterm event.” William Gibson speaks in the whisper-soft drawl of a man who for a long time now has never had to speak up in order to be heard. Though a certain edge had crept into our conversation by this point, watching him stretch out on the leather chaise longue of this hotel library (“my second home,” he calls it, as we make our way up from the lobby), it struck me that few people are able to seem at once so apprehensive and yet so intensely relaxed about the prospect of the end of the world as we know it.

“But if we are in fact facing an apocalypse,” he continues, getting now into the swing of this particular riff, “that’s the sort we’re facing. And I think that that may be what makes it so difficult for us to get our heads around what’s happening to us.”

(4) X MAGNIFICATION. In his column for CrimeReads, “Chris Claremont And The Making of an X-Men Icon”, Alex Segura interviews Claremont on his creation of Jean Grey, the Dark Phoenix, and her role in the X-Men saga.

…Though Claremont accepts the thesis that Dark Phoenix is, in many ways, in tune with the femme fatale trope, he’s not sure it’s totally apt.

“I’m not sure I would consider her a femme fatale. That actually is more Mystique’s side of the ledger,” Claremont said, referring to the blue-skinned, shape-changing mutant villain he’d introduce a bit later in his run. But the writer cannot deny the influence he and initial X-Men series artist Dave Cockrum had in reshaping Jean Grey—moving her from soft-spoken B-list heroine to full-on goddess.

“The fun with Jean for example was that when I first took over X-Men, Jean was a relatively two-and-a-half-dimensional character,” Claremont said. “What you had there was essentially unchanged from what [X-Men co-creator] Stan Lee had introduced years before. And we wanted to, I think, rough things up a tad but in the process, explore her more.”

(5) SAY CHEESE. In the Washington Post, Lela Nargi reports on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Unified Geologic Map Of The Moon, in which the survey combined maps made during the Apollo missions with subsequent satellite photo missions to create “the definitive blueprint of the moon’s surface geology.” “A new map shows the moon as it’s never been seen”.

…The USGS, which released the map in April, makes a lot of maps of Earth. It is also the “only institution in the world that creates standardized maps for surfaces that are not on Earth,” says USGS research geologist James Skinner. That includes Mars and other planets and moons in our solar system.

The new moon map took more than 50 years to make. It started with six original maps collected from the Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s and ’70s. The maps did a good job of showing the basic layout of the moon.

New technology has made it possible to create an updated map and “turn it into information scientists can use,” says Skinner.

(6) I WAS BORN UNDER A WANDERING STAR. James Davis Nicoll introduces us to lots of characters who can make that claim in “Planets on the Move: SF Stories Featuring World-Ships” at Tor.com.

Recently, we discussed science fiction stories about naturally occurring rogue worlds; there is, of course, another sort of wandering planet. That would be the deliberately-impelled variety, featured in stories in which ambitious travellers take an entire world along with them. This approach has many obvious advantages, not the least of which is that it greatly simplifies pre-flight packing….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 2, 1950 Rocketship X-M premiered. The film was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo (of Johnny Got His Gun fame). It starred Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., Hugh O’Brian, and Morris Ankrum. It was shot on a budget of ninety-four thousand dollars. It was nominated for the 1951 Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon when Destination Moon won that Award. Fandom holds it in higher esteem than audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do who give it a 16% rating! Oh, and it was the first SF film to use a theremin in the soundtrack. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 2, 1857 – Karl Gjellerup.  In The Pilgrim Kamanita, the Pilgrimmeets a strange monk who he does not know is Gautama Buddha.  In The World-Roamers, characters re-experience happenings of former eons.  In The Holiest Animal, the snake that killed Cleopatra, Odysseus’ dog, Jesus’ donkey, and others, meeting after death, choose as the holiest animal the Buddha’s horse – but he has vanished without a trace, to Nirvana.  Nobel Prize in Literature.  Translated into Dutch, English, German, Polish, Swedish, Thai.  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1899 – Lotte Reiniger.  Pioneer of silhouette animation.  Animated intertitles and wooden rats for Paul Wegener’s Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918); a falcon for Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen (Part 1 – Siegfried, 1924).  Her own Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) is the oldest known surviving feature-length animated film.  Doctor Dolittle and His Animals, 1928.  Her early version of a mutiplane camera preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade.  Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Fed’l Republic of Germany, 1979.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester del Rey.  Fan, pro, short-order cook.  Used many names, not least of which was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del-Rey de los Verdes.  Two dozen novels alone and with others; a hundred shorter stories (see the 2-vol. Selected Short Stories); half a dozen non-fiction books; Skylark Award, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; reviews for Analog, features editor for Galaxy; SF editor for Ballantine; with Judy-Lynn del Rey and after her death, Del Rey Books.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1920 Robert A. Madle, 100. File 770 celebrates Bob’s big day in a separate post about his fannish career. And fanhistory website Fanac.org dedicated its splash page to a collection of pointers to the audio and video they have of Bob, such as a recording of his 1977 Worldcon Guest of Honor speech, as well as links to the fanzines he edited in the 1930s. (OGH)
  • Born June 2, 1921 Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly in SF and related fields. She represented R.A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1929 Norton Juster, 91. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, he met Jules Feiffer who illustrates when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth an evening spent reading. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman, 83. She makes the list for being Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the superb episode of Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. She also had one-offs on the Alfred Hitchcock HourThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders, and The Ray Bradbury Theater. She played Natasha Fatale in Boris and Natasha: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1948 – Leigh Edmonds.  Founder of ANZAPA (Australia – New Zealand Amateur Press Ass’n).  Melbourne SF Club Achievement Award.  First DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate, published Emu Tracks Over America.  First A-NZ Administrator of GUFF (Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, or Going Under Fan Fund, in alternate years).  Helped organize 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); Fan Guest of Honour (with Valma Brown) at 30th.  Two Ditmars for Best Fanzine, three for Best Fanwriter.  [JH] 
  • Born June 2, 1959 – Lloyd Penney.  Thirty years on Ad Astra con committees (Toronto); Chair 1993 & 1994. “Royal Canadian Mounted Starfleet” (with Yvonne Penney & others – and song) in Chicon IV Masquerade (40th Worldcon).  Also with Yvonne, Chairs of SMOFcon VI (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said “a joke-nonjoke-joke”; con-runners’ con); CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegates, published Penneys Up the River; Fan Guests of Honor, Loscon XXXIV.  Prolific loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines); 5 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1963 – Katsuya Kondô.  Manga artist, character designer, animator, animation director.  His character designs are considered the epitome of the Studio Ghibli style.  Known for Kiki’s Delivery ServiceOcean Waves (both Ghibli); Jade Cocoon (PlayStation game); D’arc (2-vol. manga about Joan of Arc; with Ken’ichi Sakemi).  Recently, character design for Ronya, the Robber’s Daughter (Ghibli, 2014).  [JH]
  •  Born June 2, 1972 Wentworth Miller, 48. I’m including him here today as he plays Captain Cold on the Legends of Tomorrow which might one of the best SF series currently being aired. His first genre role was on Buffy and other than a stint on the Dinotopia miniseries, this role is his entire genre undertaking along with being on Flash. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1973 – Carlos Acosta.  Cuban director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; before that, 17 years at The Royal Ballet, many other companies.  Prix Benois de la Danse.  Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to ballet.   Besides dancing in many fantasies (Afternoon of a FaunApolloThe NutcrackerSwan Lake) – and finding time for a wife and three children – he’s written a magic-realism novel, Pig’s Foot.  Memoir, No Way Home.  [JH]

(9) A POEM FOR THE DAY. By John Hertz:

May didn’t do it.
A month whose name’s almost young
Dealt him out to us.
Lively-minded, he connects
Energizing give and take.

 __________

An acrostic (read down the first letters) in 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump has a joke about dragon housekeeping.
  • Cul de Sac tries to imagine what makes up the universe.
  • Frazz tells us how to recognize “literature” when we read it. 

(11) CLASSIC SFF ART. The host of Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations creatd a thread about the careers of artists Leo and Diane Dillon. It starts here.

(12) IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA. Lois McMaster Bujold has posted about her experiences at the online SFWA Nebula Conference, including the text of her Grandmaster award acceptance remarks which end —

… And, throughout it all, I have been endlessly supported by my agent, Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency. We first met face-to-face at the Nebula weekend in New York City in 1989. The morning after _Falling Free_ won my first Nebula Award, we shook hands over a hotel breakfast in a deal I trust neither of us has had cause to regret. Though I don’t think either of us realized how long it would last, three decades and counting.

(13) HARE GROWTH. A new collection of shorts on HBO Max, Looney Tunes Cartoons, captures the look and feel of the originals. The New York Times article may be paywalled; here are the key points and cartoon link.

In “Dynamite Dance,” Elmer Fudd comes at Bugs Bunny with a scythe, prompting the hare to jam a stick of lit dynamite in Elmer’s mouth.

Over the course of the short animated video, the explosives get bigger and more plentiful, as Bugs jams dynamite in Elmer’s ears, atop his bald head, and down his pants. The relentless assault moves from rowboat to unicycle to biplane, each blast timed to the spirited melody of Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours.”

The short has the look, feel and unabashed mayhem of a classic “Looney Tunes” cartoon, circa the early 1940s. But “Dynamite Dance” is of much more recent vintage, one of scores of episodes created by a new crop of WarnerBros. animators over the past two years.

…“I always thought, ‘What if Warner Bros. had never stopped making “Looney Tunes” cartoons?’” said Peter Browngardt, the series executive producer and showrunner. “As much as we possibly could, we treated the production in that way.”

…The creators of the new series hope to do justice to the directors, animators and voice artists of the so-called Termite Terrace, a pest-ridden animation facility on Sunset Boulevard where many of the franchise’s most beloved characters were born.

“There was something about the energy of those early cartoons,” Browngardt said. “And those five directors: Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery before he left for MGM, Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng. They literally invented a language of cinema.”

(14) EMPLOYEES ABOUT FACE AT FACEBOOK. NPR reports “Facebook Employees Revolt Over Zuckerberg’s Hands-Off Approach To Trump”.

Facebook is facing an unusually public backlash from its employees over the company’s handling of President Trump’s inflammatory posts about protests in the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.

At least a dozen employees, some in senior positions, have openly condemned Facebook’s lack of action on the president’s posts and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of that decision. Some employees staged a virtual walkout Monday.

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” tweeted Ryan Freitas, director of product design for Facebook’s news feed.

“I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up,” tweeted Jason Toff, director of product management. “The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.”

(15) GOING DOWN. NPR presents excerpts of the resetting of Orpheus and Eurydice (and Tony winner for Best Musical of 2019): “Hadestown: Tiny Desk Concert” — long audio/video.

You can probably guess that we recorded the original Broadway cast of Hadestown before the coronavirus pandemic made live theater (live anything) an untenable risk. The reminders are everywhere — in the way 16 performers bunch up behind the desk, singing formidably in close proximity as a large crowd gathers just off camera — that this took place in the Before-Times. To be specific, on March 2.

We’d actually been trying to put this show together since the spring of 2019, when Hadestown was a freshly Tony-nominated hit musical. We hit several delays along the way due to scheduling issues, only to end up rushing in an attempt to record while playwright Anaïs Mitchell — who wrote both the musical and the 2010 folk opera on which it’s based — was eight months pregnant.

Thankfully, we captured something truly glorious — a five-song distillation of a robust and impeccably staged Broadway production. A raucous full-cast tone-setter, “Way Down Hadestown” lets Hermes (André De Shields, in a role that won him a Tony) and Persephone (Kimberly Marable, filling in for Amber Gray) set the scene before a medley of “Come Home With Me” and “Wedding Song” finds Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) meeting and falling in love. “When the Chips Are Down” showcases the three Fates — spirits who often drive the characters’ motivations — as played by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad. And in “Flowers,” Eurydice looks back with regret and resignation on her decision to leave Orpheus for the promise of Hadestown.

(16) NO NOSE IS BAD NOSE. From the Harvard Gazette: “Loss of taste and smell is best indicator of COVID-19, study shows”.

MGH, King’s College London researchers use crowdsourced data from app to monitor symptoms in 2.6 million, study how the disease spreads

Though fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19 infection, a recent study in which 2.6 million people used a smartphone app to log their symptoms daily showed that the most oddball pair of indicators — loss of smell and taste — was also the best predictor, and one that scientists said should be included in screening guidelines.

…The scientists adapted a smartphone app that had been created by corporate partner ZOE, a health science company, for research on how to personalize diet to address chronic disease. The new program, a free download from the Apple or Google app stores, collects demographic and health background information and then asks how the participant is feeling. If they’re feeling well, that’s the end of the daily entry. If they’re not it asks further questions about symptoms.

(17) BLIT FOR ANDROID? BBC asks “Why this photo is bricking some phones”.

Dozens of Android phone owners are reporting on social media that a picture featuring a lake, a cloudy sunset and a green shoreline is crashing their handsets when used as wallpaper.

Several brands seem to be affected, including Samsung and Google’s Pixel.

The bug makes the screen turn on and off continuously. In some cases a factory reset is required.

The BBC does not recommend trying it out.

Samsung is due to roll out out a maintenance update on 11 June. The BBC has contacted Google for comment but not yet had a response.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. At Axios “Science fiction writers tell us how they see the coronavirus pandemic”.

  • Neil Gaiman, author of “Coraline”: “I think this period of time is going to be a fertile time for storytellers for decades and, I hope, centuries to come.
  • Lois Lowry, author of “The Giver”: “We’re at the part of the book where the reader is feeling a terrible sense of suspense.”
  • Nnedi Okorafor, author of “The Shadow Speaker”: “One thing I’ve felt since all of this has happened, is this idea of … oh my gosh, it’s finally happening.”
  • Max Brooks, author of “World War Z”: “Those big crises that affect us all have to be solved by all of us … it may not be some alpha male with a big gun or some clairvoyant wizard or someone with magical powers.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Andre Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joseph Hurtgen.]

2019 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / pjgon71

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

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Lois McMaster Bujold Named SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA, Inc.) has named Lois McMaster Bujold the 36th Damon Knight Grand Master for her contributions to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold was born in 1949, the daughter of an engineering professor at Ohio State University, from whom she picked up her early interest in science fiction. She now lives in Minneapolis, and has two grown children. Her fantasy from HarperCollins includes the award-winning Chalion series and the Sharing Knife tetralogy; her science fiction from Baen Books features the perennially bestselling Vorkosigan Saga. Her work has been translated into over twenty languages and has won seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards.

SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal commented:

Lois McMaster Bujold has had an undeniable influence on the field of science- fiction and fantasy. From the the Vorkosigan Saga, to the Chalion series and the Sharing Knife series, she finds new ways to explore the genre, mixing and matching everything from regency to science fiction. With dozens of books in multiple languages, while continuing to write, she is one of the most prolific authors working today. Importantly, she also serves as a role model for many writers, including me. In A Civil Campaign, she wrote, “Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.” There is no doubt about Lois McMaster Bujold’s honor and becoming SFWA’s newest Grand Master only underlines her sterling reputation.

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award will be presented along with the Nebula Awards® during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference, which will run from May 28-31 and features seminars and panel discussions on the craft and business of writing, SFWA’s annual business meeting, and receptions. During that weekend, a mass autograph session will also take place at the Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills and is open to the public.

The Nebula Awards®, presented annually, recognize the best works of science fiction and fantasy published in the United States as selected by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The first Nebula Awards® were presented in 1966.