(1) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May/June 2021 cover art is by David A. Hardy. Thanks to Publisher Gordon Van Gelder for the advance look.
(2) VICTORY LAP. “Charlie Jane Anders On New Book Victories Greater Than Death” is a Nerdist Q&A with the author.
Charlie Jane Anders has long been a vocal presence within the sci-fi fandom at large. Her prose writing has earned her multiple Hugo Awards as well as a Nebula award for her novel All The Birds In The Sky. With her upcoming book, Victories Greater Than Death, Anders kicks off a planned trilogy within the YA space. A tale reminiscent of the big flashy space opera adventures she grew up adoring. Nerdist recently had the chance to speak with Anders about her newest work….
A common theme in your novels is characters moving towards a destiny that they’re only vaguely aware of. Is there something about this particular trope that you feel drawn to explore?
Yes! One of my obsessions as a writer is the “quest that people don’t necessarily know is a quest.” I hate writing characters who just go where the plot needs them to go, because I start to get bored if the characters don’t have a more personal stake in what’s going on. I just feel like this is more real and grounded. We usually don’t know where all of our searching is going to end up, until we get there.
I also feel like a quest needs to be spiritual as much as logistical, so I try to write characters who are searching for fulfillment as much as trying to accomplish a plot-driven goal. I read a ton of medieval texts like Piers Plowman and Pilgrim’s Progress back in college, and they left me with an enduring love for the quest for “what does it mean to be a good person?”
(3) NOT JUST A LABEL. In the Washington Post, Charlie Jane Anders has an op-ed where she discusses her own experiences as a transgender person and says that some bills (like North Carolina’s)”subject young people to extraordinary scrutiny and intervention when they need time to explore their interests and personalities.” “We should celebrate trans kids, not crack down on them”.
…Figuring out your own gender identity is hard work, requiring large amounts of self-awareness and vulnerability. Your gender isn’t just a label: It’s a matter of how your inner conception of yourself meets everyone else’s perceptions.
My own experience of finding myself as a transgender person involved a lot of false starts and soul-searching, as I tried to reconcile the person I’d been told I was with everything I felt inside. Often, it may appear that trans kids and adults emerge fully formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus, when in reality we’ve spent endless hours trying to make sense of our selves. The moment we reveal the end result of our self-discovery to the world, we face microaggressions, outright hostility and discrimination.
For anyone, of any age, this can feel like riding a unicycle across a muddy field while bystanders shout unhelpful advice….
(4) THE ART OF VILLAINY. And we complete our Charlie Jane Anders trifecta with “Six Sinister Secrets to Creating a Truly Scary Villain”, a guest post at Stone Soup.
We’re facing a real shortage of pants-wetting villains in pop culture these days. I’ve gotten used to seeing a lot of villains, especially in movies and TV shows, who feel like a bit of an afterthought, or just a nasty copy of the hero. Or else they’re so sympathetic that they end up becoming more of an anti-hero, and usually get redeemed.
Villains should be able to commit almost any sin – except for the cardinal sin of being forgettable. Every time they show up, we should get scared and excited, because some shit is about to go down.
When I set out to write Victories Greater Than Death, my young adult space opera novel about heroic queer teens who save all the worlds, I really wanted to include an old-school, capital-v Villain. For my previous novels, I had tried to keep the morality of all my characters ambiguous, so that everybody got to make terrible decisions but also be pretty decent at times. But when it came to writing a swash-buckling, trash-talking adventure story with space battles and narrow escapes, I was determined to cook up a really monstrous baddie, like the ones who unnerved me when I was a kid.
(5) ALMOST AN ALT-HIST DOCUMENTARY. The Space Review’s Dwayne A. Day compliments an ambitious series: “It is very cold in space: Season 2 of ‘For All Mankind’”.
…So often, Hollywood demonstrates only a thin understanding of the subject matter of the shows it produces. Real doctors, lawyers, police officers, theologians, scientists, psychologists, teachers, engineers, and astronauts watch programs about their professions and scoff at how little they get right. TV writers quite often seem to get their knowledge of complex subjects from Wikipedia. But “For All Mankind” is different. It is almost as if the show has dropped its cameras into the time period (the late 1960s and early 1970s in season one, 1983 in season two) and filmed what actually happened, even though it didn’t… but could have.
The show’s strengths go beyond its level of verisimilitude. This is one of the few shows on television that is about something, that has questions to ask and answers to pose and ideas to explore. The show’s second season is mostly successful at doing that, although it stumbles a bit at the finish line….
(6) JACOBS OBIT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna remembers Frank Jacobs, who died on April 5 at 92. His song parodies inspired Weird Al Yankovic, who is interviewed in the piece, and earned him the name of MAD’s “Poet Lauridiot.” “Remembering Frank Jacobs, the ‘poet lauridiot’ of Mad magazine who inspired comics like ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic”.
…He was best known for cutting lyrics set to standards from the great American songbook — including such tuneful spoofs as “East Side Story,” “Flawrence of Arabia” and “Keep On Trekin’ ” — and his musical parodies were even at the center of a landmark copyright-law case.
Music publishers and named plaintiff Irving Berlin sued Mad over a 1961 special edition that featured more than 50 parody lyrics to such songs as Berlin’s “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody,” which Jacobs turned into “Louella Schwartz Describes Her Malady.” In 1964, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in Mad’s favor, with Circuit Court Judge Irving Kaufman writing in his decision: “We doubt that even so eminent a composer as plaintiff Irving Berlin should be permitted to claim a property interest in iambic pentameter.”
Jacobs began writing for Mad in 1957, crafting early pieces such as “Why I Left the Army and Became a Civilian,” which humorously contrasted the discipline of military life with the demands of being an everyday married commuter. He also liked to spoof other cartoons, including in works such as “Obituaries for Comic Strip Characters” and “If the Characters in ‘Peanuts’ Aged Like Ordinary People”; the latter spoof was published in 1972, when Mad was at its pop cultural peak, reaching millions of readers each month.
“What is really amazing to me today is that there still are people who can sing all the words to some of his parodies,” says his son, Alex Jacobs….
(7) FRANCES OBIT. In “Myra Frances obituary”, The Guardian pays tribute to an actor with a notable genre resume who died April 13.
The actor Myra Frances, who has died aged 78 of cancer, broke a British screen taboo when she and Alison Steadman shared television’s first lesbian kiss in 1974.
… her other standout screen role, as the selfish, self-obsessed Anne Tranter in the first series of Survivors (1975), a post-apocalyptic drama devised by Terry Nation, best known as the creator of the Daleks in Doctor Who.
Tranter, who has enjoyed a privileged upbringing, is one of less than 1% of the world’s population not wiped out by a plague, and Frances gives an intensely powerful portrayal of her as a screen villain, dumping her disabled partner and refusing to help others, having regard for only her self-preservation – the qualities of a true survivor.
The drama ran for a further two series with regularly changing characters, and in 1979 Frances appeared in another cult screen hit, Doctor Who. In The Creature From the Pit adventure, she played Lady Adrasta, doomed ruler of Chloris, who controls the valuable metals on her verdant planet of foggy forests until her people turn against her.
(8) HUGHES OBIT. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Guardian journalist and TV critic Sarah Hughes, who did their episode-by-episode reviews of Game of Thrones among others, has died of cancer at the aged only 48. I was shocked to read this, because I had seen her final article, a review of an episode of the UK crime drama Line of Duty, only a day before her death, so she was literally still reviewing TV episodes on her deathbed. There’s also a lovely tribute by a fellow Guardian journalist: “’My TV bellwether, my wonderful friend’: a tribute to Sarah Hughes”.
…Over the past 10 years, Sarah Hughes cultivated the most wonderful and witty community for fans of the cultural juggernaut Game of Thrones. Readers flocked to her weekly recaps to share in her great love and knowledge of television. With boundless energy and absolutely no spoilers, she gave telly addicts a home and she always made them feel loved and listened to.
I had the honour of editing my TV bellwether, my wonderful friend, who died of cancer on Monday after outliving by years the prognosis doctors dared to give her. I put her longevity down to her passion for life, telly, trashy books, Tottenham Hotspur and Cheltenham races – plus, of course, the depth of her love for her husband, Kris, and their two children, Ruby and Oisín….
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born April 13, 1893 – Harold Sheldon, Ph.D. Physics professor, Prentice-Hall science editor, pioneer in conduction of electricity through crystals (basis of electronic integrated circuits) and ultra-high-frequency radio. Third Ph.D. member of the American Interplanetary Society. Introduction to Lasser’s The Conquest of Space. Television (1929!). Space, Time & Relativity. Light Waves and Their Uses. Okay, okay, these weren’t fiction. (Died 1964) [JH]
- Born April 13, 1931 — Beverley Cross. English screenwriter responsible for an amazing trio of films, to wit namely Jason And The Argonauts, Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger and Clash Of The Titans. He also wrote the screenplay for The Long Ships which is at genre adjacent. (Died 1998.) (CE)
- Born April 13, 1937 — Terry Carr. Well-known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressive so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death and all proceeds went to his widow. (Died 1987.) (CE)
- Born April 13, 1941 – John Foyster. Mainspring of the 7th Australian SF Con; Fan Guest of Honour at 8th, 12th, 20th. Instigated Aussiecon I the 33rd Worldcon. Co-founded DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund). First GUFF (Get Up and over Fan Fund northbound, Going Under Fan Fund south) delegate, report Stranger in Stranger Lands. Australian SF Review. Australian Fan History 1953-1966. Journal of Omphalistic Epistemology (with Bruce Gillespie). Contributor & correspondent, Chunga, Izzard, NY Rev SF, SF Commentary, SF Review, Vision of Tomorrow. Chandler Award. Three Ditmars. More here. (Died 2003) [JH]
- Born April 13, 1949 – Teddy Harvia, age 72. Four Hugos as Best Fanartist. Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 25, DeepSouthCon 35, ArmadilloCon 23, Loscon 30, ConQuesT 38; Special Guest (with wife Diana Thayer), Boskone 36 (Boskone has no Fan Guest of Honor; the Special Guest need not be a fan). Rebel Award. Rotsler Award. See my note here. [JH]
- Born April 13, 1951 — Peter Davison, 70. The Fifth Doctor and one that I came to be very fond of unlike the one that followed him. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish. (CE)
- Born April 13, 1953 – Helen Hollick, age 68. Eight novels, two shorter stories. Historical fiction “not to include Merlin…. no magic…. no Holy Grail quest…. not a fantasy” about Arthur, Harold II, Emma of Normandy; also “pirate-based nautical adventures … part fantasy … intended for adult reading.” Website. [JH]
- Born April 13, 1954 — Michael Cassutt, 67. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His notable TV work includes work for the animated Dungeons & Dragons, Max Headroom, The Outer Limits, Beauty and The Beast, SeaQuest, Farscape and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written a number of genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer. (VE)
- Born April 13, 1950 — Ron Perlman, 71. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of Storms, Hellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short). He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno was followed quickly By being Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by the hard SF of being Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it.) At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing. (CE)
- Born April 13, 1967 – Mayra Calvani, age 54. Some work under Zoe Kalo may have to be sought that way; three novels as MC, five as ZK. Also MC nonfiction e.g. anthology Latina Authors and Their Muses (Int’l Latina Book Award). [JH]
- Born April 13, 1985 – Karsten Knight, age 36. Six novels, three shorter stories. “Favorite song: ‘The Very Thought of You’ by Billie Holiday…. I performed as a beatboxer in various a cappella groups for almost a decade.” [JH]
(10) SOLE MAN. “’Rocky Horror’ played to an empty theater for 54 weeks. Now, audiences return to Portland’s longest-running movie” – OregonLive interviews the audience. Almost every one of him.
Some things are constants in a chaotic world: Death, taxes and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which has played at Portland’s Clinton Street Theater every Saturday night for 43 years.
So, on March 15, 2020, when the theater was forced to close due to coronavirus restrictions, one man was determined not to break the streak.
For the next 54 Saturdays, Nathan Williams came to an empty theater to screen the film, sometimes with a friend, sometimes by himself.
“I watched it alone. I watched it during the snowstorm,” said Williams, who serves as emcee for the theater’s “Rocky” nights. “I was in a position to keep a flame burning, to keep a torch lit.
“I’m just a guy holding a torch for the city of Portland, for all the weirdos, for all the people who don’t have a safe place to call home, we’re home.”
Lani Jo Leigh, owner of Clinton Street Theater since 2012, said it was important for the community to know that the theater was still waiting for them…
(11) SPACE ON THE SHELVES. Delish reports “Lucky Charms Galactic Is Coming To Cereal Aisles Soon”.
…Announcing the release of Lucky Charms Galactic, General Mills is clearly keeping the cereal game on lock as well as keeping cereal lovers on their toes. Delivering an intergalactic twist on the beloved Lucky Charms brand, the new limited-edition offering still hosts the traditional frosted toasted oat cereal with marshmallow pieces that we love, but now includes three additional new magic charms. How lucky are we?!
The new charms—which are said to have “special powers”—include two colorful planet charms that can duplicate and a rocket charm that has the power to race through space….
(12) LAST IN SPACE. UPI brings you into the picture as “Astronaut breaks Guinness record for longest time between spacewalks”.
A Japanese astronaut was awarded a Guinness World Record when he took two spacewalks 15 years and 214 days apart.
Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, went for a spacewalk March 5 as part of the ISS Expedition 64, a record-breaking amount of time after his Aug. 3, 2005, spacewalk.
(13) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. AI cats are already a thing – The Verge worries that “Soon, the internet will make its own cat photos and then it won’t need us”.
These are computer-generated images from This Cat Does Not Exist, and folks: I think we are in trouble.
I understand this is going to sound crackpot, but hear me out. What if our computers are already smarter than us, and the only reason they’re pretending they aren’t is so we’ll continue feeding them their favorite thing, photos of our cats? I understand that in isolation this sounds ridiculous, but I don’t think it’s any sillier than the Singularity.
Under this theory, Skynet has already happened, but Skynet is benign because one of the first things we taught it was that cats were cute. And Skynet doesn’t have cats. We do. This is our major structural advantage: we can feed the internet fresh cat photos. It’s why the internet — thus far, anyway — has remained willing to continue human life as we know it: for our cats…
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Monster Hunter Rise” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this game is “another entry in the turning monsters into fashion accessories genre” which should appeal to gamers who enjoy “whacking dinosaurs with comically oversize weapons.”
[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Gordon Van Gelder, Dann, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]