(1) ATWOOD SEQUEL. With A Handmaid’s Tale enjoying great success as a TV series, Publishers Weekly reports “Margaret Atwood Is Writing a Sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale'”.
Following two years in which Margaret Atwood‘s classic dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale saw a skyrocketing in readership and new cultural relevance, both on television and in society at large, the author has announced a sequel.
The Testaments, set 15 years after the final scene of The Handmaid’s Tale, will be published on September 10, 2019, by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, with an announced first printing of 500,000 copies….
“Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book,” Atwood said in a statement. “Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”
The Testaments is not connected to the television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, which is headed into its third season, six Emmy Awards in tow.
(2) NEBULA CONFERENCE PRICE RISE. Sean Wallace reminded people you have only until Friday to get the early bird special convention rate for SFWA’s Nebula Conference before it goes significantly up.
(3) IN FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— publishes a story on a theme. The theme for October–December 2018: Work. And this month’s story is “Overvalued” by Mark Stasenko, a TV writer whose credits include the Peabody Award–winning series American Vandal.
“How was your day?” Jack asked his wife as she took off her black leather pumps at the door of their spacious industrial-chic condo in NoMad.
“Good,” Sophia lied.
They didn’t use to lie to each other, not even about small things. Unfiltered honesty had always come naturally to them, despite their glaring differences—maybe because of them. But for the past six weeks, nothing seemed natural anymore. It was strange how much the death of a stranger had changed things.
It was published along with a response essay, “What’s Stopping Human Capital From Becoming a Security?”, by investor and writer Zachary Karabell.
That’s the specter raised by Mark Stasenko’s macabre short story of a not-too-distant future in which the potential of an individual has been turned into a tradeable security via a Prodigy Market in which investors can buy, sell, or short promising people.
Elements of the story are already real. Insurance companies have for many years insured vital aspects of individual talent and worth—Lloyd’s of London has famously insured Betty Grable’s legs and Bruce Springsteen’s voice….
(4) RESPONSES TO SILVERBERG. Here are a pair of analytical reactions to Robert Silverberg’s Racism and Sexism post on File 770, plus N.K. Jemisin’s answer.
…I understand you are upset that someone spread your words around. Such is the way with playground gossip, too. You still need to apologize.
I understand that you don’t mean to cause harm. You should still think critically about how your words have evoked it.
I understand you do not go into your projects with an explicitly biased eye. You should consider one of the truest premises Science Fiction embraces: we are not always aware of our biases.
I understand you are not trying to exclude others. Consider that systems are built with inclusion and exclusion in mind. You should think through who is excluded in our publishing model and how that is painful and harmful to our community….
Will Emmons’ Facebook post tries to place Silverberg’s arguments in cultural and political context:
…The ‘drama’ is sort of beside the point though. Except it’s a place to jump off for a conversation of culture and politics. A better question than Robert Silverberg’s personal views, or even his personal history, is what the politics of fandom and/or other cultural affinity groups is or should be. I’m a communist and have my own views about this but I’m mostly going to be talking about other people’s views as I understand them.
A position common to the old school liberals and conservatives as well as the emergent far right is the intellectually dishonest statement that politics has no place in fandom. Silverberg writes of Jemisin’s Hugo speech that he “felt that her angry acceptance speech had been a graceless one, because I believe that Hugo acceptance speeches should be occasions for gratitude and pleasure, not angry statements that politicize what should be a happy ceremony.”
I say this is dishonest because the old school liberals and conservatives of the generation before Silverberg’s engaged in personal and political struggles against the left-leaning Futurian fans. It came to a head at the 1939 Worldcon when a number of important Futurians were barred from entry. For his own part, back in the 50s Silverberg’s immense output included, among everything else, what Nazis call “message fic,” i.e. stories that disagree with fascist values. Google “The Happy Unfortunate,” a public domain short story where genetically engineered spacemen are kept out of the main city through an apartheid-like arrangement.
N.K. Jemisin’s thread starts here.
Well, no. It's really just a longer doubling-down of his original screed, plus mischaracterizing my figurative "finger" as "brandishing her new Hugo as a weapon," and "I have black and women friends." Then he starts ranting about some old beef with somebody else. ??
— N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin) November 28, 2018
Anyway, since folks have asked, I will not be making a counterpost. I had a book come out yesterday and I'm trying to finish another by the end of this month. I don't have time for this. That's all I have to say.
— N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin) November 28, 2018
(5) MORE ON FACIAL RECOGNITION. Writing in Forbes Magazine, Emeritus Professor of AI and Robotics Noel Sharkey looks at the dire warnings of totalitarianism that science fiction has provided, from Orwell to Doctorow, and asks us to consider what the tipping point is at which unfreedom begins: “Get Out Of My Face, Get Out of My Home: The Authoritarian Tipping Point”.
…There is an even more serious question than the massive inaccuracy of face recognition technology outside of the lab. It is even more serious than the racial and gender prejudice of the technology. The question is why the hell are we allowing law enforcement to scan our faces and use them for data?
Inaccurate face recognition creates grave injustices and sooner or later the wrong people will die because of it. But better accuracy may be even worse for the direction of our society. I fully understand how useful it would be for the police to catch dangerous wanted criminals and safely follow potential terrorists wherever they go. But at what cost to our lives?
Imagine if all of the mass of security cameras were equipped with reasonably accurate face recognition – and this is not totally unrealistic – there would be no place to hide. The more this is used, the cheaper it will get and the more AI will be used to act on the data. How long will it be before people are tracked for trivial offenses by face recognition software and told to wait until they are picked up? This technology would put great power in the hands of the authorities.
This is not the society that I wish to live in. Yet huge numbers of us are helping the quest by allowing apps like Facebook to collect data about our faces. When we post pictures of our friends on Facebook and tag them, we are providing data for face recognition algorithms to link those faces with their personal data. Some phones now acquire your face data so that it can be used to recognize you and open your phone….
(6) HILLENBURG OBIT. SpongeBob Squarepants’ creator Stephen Hillenburg died November 26 at age 57 — Variety has the story.
That same year  he won an award for Best Animated Concept at the Ottawa International Animation Festival for his animated short “Wormholes”, which went on to be shown at various international animation festivals. From 1993 to 1996 he would pursue work in television as a director and writer on Nickelodeon’s series “Rocko’s Modern Life.”
From there, he began to work full-time on writing producing, and directing on the animated series that would eventually become “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The first episode aired on Nickelodeon on May 1, 1999 and the series commenced its full run on July 17 of that year. The series has aired nearly 250 episodes to date. It appealed not only to children but older viewers as well, with college students even organizing viewing parties for the show.
(7) BURT OBIT. Andrew Burt (1945-2018): British actor, died November 16, aged 73. Genre appearances include The Legend of King Arthur (seven episodes, 1979), Blake’s 7 (one episode, 1980), Gulliver in Lilliput (four episodes, 1982), Doctor Who (three episodes, 1983), Super Gran (one episode, 1985).
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
- Born November 28, 1930 – William Sargent, 88, Actor who played Dr. Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”, a first-season episode of Star Trek. He also had guest roles on Mission: Impossible, The Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Invaders, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and appeared in the zombie movie Night Slaves. He was in the pilot but not the regular cast for the TV series The Immortal, for which SFWA Grand Master James Gunn was head writer.
- Born November 28, 1939 – Walter Velez, Artist. His agent and fellow artist Jill Bauman wrote, “Walter created illustrations for most of the major book and gaming companies. He has been long known for his cover art for such popular books such as the Thieves World series and the Myth Adventures series, both edited by Robert Asprin; and the Ebenezum, Wuntor, and Cineverse Cycle series, all by Craig Shaw Gardner. Walter illustrated for TSR games extensively. He applied his multi-faceted talents to trading cards for the Goosebumps series for the Topps Company, and a series of Dune trading cards. In the early 80’s he worked with Random House to create art for several Star Wars books that were licensed from George Lucas.” (Died 2018.)
- Born November 28, 1946 – Joe Dante, 72, Director and Producer. Warning, this is a personal list of works he directed that I’ve really, really enjoyed – starting off with The Howling, then adding in the Saturn-nominated Innerspace, both of the Saturn-nominated Gremlins films (though I think only the first is a masterpiece, which is why that Saturn nom got him a trophy), Small Soldiers, and The Hole (2009). For television work, he’s directed episodes for quite a number of series, but the only one I can say I recall and was impressed by was his Legends of Tomorrow “Night of the Hawk” episode. As Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom (proving that everyone has a horrible day), the Jeremiah series, and an upcoming horror film called Camp Cold Brook.
- Born November 28, 1950 – Ed Harris, 68, Actor, Director, and Producer with a lengthy genre resume whose first role was in the Michael Crichton-directed version of Robin Cook’s Coma, but whose most famous genre role, depending on your flavor of fandom, might be his Oscar-nominated turn as Flight Director Gene Kranz in the Hugo finalist Apollo 13 (which earned him a sly voice cameo as Mission Control in Gravity), his Saturn-winning lead role as The Man in Black in the TV series Westworld, his Saturn-nominated performance as an undersea explorer in the Hugo finalist The Abyss, or his Oscar- and Saturn-nominated part as the exploitative genius of The Truman Show.
- Born November 28, 1952 – S. Epatha Merkerson, 66, Actor who has spent around 25 years in main roles in Dick Wolf’s Law & Order and Chicago procedural dramas, but who managed to sneak in genre roles in the films Jacob’s Ladder, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Slipstream, and a main role in the short-lived 1990s cyborg police series Mann & Machine.
- Born November 28, 1961 – Alfonso Cuarón, 57, Writer, Director, and Producer from Mexico who has directed three impressive genre films: the Hugo finalists Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men (based on P. D. James’ 1992 novel of the same name) and the Hugo Award-winning Gravity, for which he also won an Oscar. He also produced the Hugo-winning Pan’s Labyrinth, and is the creator of Believe, a TV series about a young girl born with special supernatural abilities she can not control, which lasted thirteen episodes. The Possibility of Hope, a documentary short film which he directed, looks at different matters of the world such as immigration, global warming and capitalism through the eyes of scientists and philosophers.
- Born November 28, 1962 – Mark Hodder, 56, Writer from England who is best known for his Burton & Swinburne alternate-history Victorian steampunk novels, starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, which deservedly garnered the 2010 Philip K. Dick Award. Books 3 and 4, Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon and The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi, were finalists for Sidewise Awards. His A Red Sun Also Rises recreates a sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world (emphasis on “sort of”). And then there’s Consulting Detective Macallister Fogg, which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes, only decidedly weirder.
- Born November 28, 1984 – Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 34, Actor, Singer, and Producer whose roots are deepest in the horror genre, with notable roles in Sky High, Final Destination 3, Monster Island, Black Christmas (so merry-sounding, that), the recent reboot of The Thing, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (anyone seen this?), 10 Cloverfield Lane (for which she won a Saturn Award), The Ring Two, and the upcoming Gemini Man. Her series work includes Touched by an Angel and its spinoff Promised Land, Wolf Lake, Tru Calling, The Returned, and a guest voice role on the animated Danger & Eggs series (which I am not describing).
- Born November 28, 1987 – Karen Gillan, 31, Actor, Writer, and Director whom Doctor Who fans know as Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor; two episodes in which she appeared, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” and “The Doctor’s Wife”, won Hugo Awards. More recent high-profile roles include playing Nebula in the Guardians of The Galaxy and Avengers movies, and Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Other genre appearances include the supernatural thriller films Outcast and Oculus, and the multi-platform horror story The Well.
(9) BOOKSHOP OPENS NEW BRANCH UNDER FANNISH MANAGEMENT. Milwaukee’s Renaissance Bookshop (best known for having the world’s first used-book store in an airport) opened a new branch in suburban Southridge Mall at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. The manager is 23-year-old second-generation fan/bookseller Kelly J.A. Lowrey, child of “Orange Mike” Lowrey and C.Kay “Cicatrice” Hinchliffe. The present staffing at the Southridge store is “heavily fannish”, reports proud papa Mike, and looks likely to remain so.
(10) HIS DAY JOB. Paul Di Filippo excerpted “Philip F. Nowlan’s Early Journalism” in a post at TheInferior4.
Philip F. Nowlan, the fellow who created Buck Rogers, worked as a journalist prior to that milestone. By accident, I stumbled on a column he used to write, three samples of which are here…
(11) DILLON SOLO. Aficianados remember Leo & Diane Dillon’s many collaborative sff book covers. But I haven’t seen much solo work. Now there’s a gallery of Leo Dillon’s solo art at the Flying Cars and Food Pills blog. Andrew Porter sent the link together with his photo of Leo (Diane visible over his left shoulder) from the opening of a show at their son’s Fusion Designs Gallery, a now-closed gallery in Brooklyn.
(12) PRINCESS CASTING. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Pamela Ribon, a writer of Ralph Breaks the Internet, about a scene where Vannellope Van Schweetz is surrounded by nearly a dozen Disney princesses. She talks about how she developed the scene and how she recruited seven former Disney princesses to recreate their original roles as cameos. “How ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ spoofs the Disney Princess industrial complex”.
That conversation carried over to the early story stages of the “Ralph” sequel. “I thought: ‘Gosh, why isn’t Vanellope canon?’ “ Ribon says. “To me, she’s my kind of princess — in a hoodie.”
“At first we were joking about Vanellope photobombing the [seven] dwarfs,” Ribon says. That brainstorming evolved into having Vanellope — who goes AWOL from her Sugar Rush game — come upon the Oh My Disney area of the Internet.
“What if they’re trying to determine whether or not she’s canon — whatever that thing [is] that they decide at Disneyland that allows some of them to get their coronation,” Ribon says of having the princesses grill Vanellope on her potentially royal résumé. “And so I took it from there.”
But while executing her idea, Ribon says, she began to have a “true panic attack,” so she contacted a friend — a walking Wikipedia of Disney facts — and told her: “I have all these tropes and I just want to make sure I have the right princesses. Which ones were kidnapped? Which ones have daddy issues?
“She was like: ‘What are you doing?’ “
(13) LION KING. In a Washington Post article “‘The Lion King’ remake’s trailer confuses the Internet: Just what is ‘live action’ anymore?”, Michael Cavna says there is a major controversy over whether Disney’s remake of The Lion King is “live action” when “everything on the screen looks like a painted pixel.” He mentions an article on the Cartoon Brew website called “Don’t Let Disney Gaslight You: The Lion King Remake Is An Animated Film.”
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Disney released the first trailer for next year’s “Lion King” remake — which trades in the 1994 original’s 2D animation for CGI re-creation — and after more than 224 million views within the first day, the debate was sparked: Just how is this a “live-action” film when everything on the screen looks like a painted pixel?
Some viewers tweeted their confusion over the trailer — perhaps expecting a so-called live-action remake of “The Lion King” to be more in the vein of the costuming in Julie Taymor’s smash Broadway musical.
And the high degree of cinematic similarity prompted some users to post shot-by-shot comparisons of the original and the remake.
(14) IN YOUR COPIOUS SPACETIME. James Davis Nicoll chronicles “Six SF Novels (and One Song) Built Around Space Travel and Time Dilation” at Tor.com.
No hope for men with pretensions of following in Captain Kirk’s footsteps in Joan D. Vinge’s 1974 novella Tin Soldier (originally collected in Orbit 14, later reprinted in Eyes of Amber). Starflight is the exclusive domain of women; men, physiologically incapable of serving as waking crew, are consigned to the status of hibernating cargo. The story follows an intermittent romance between two people: a woman whose career as crew leaves her skipping across decades and her immortal cyborg bartender friend, who is making his way through time the slow way.
(15) VIRGIN GALACTIC ON THE CUSP. Christian Davenport’s Washington Post article “Virgin Galactic’s quest for space” has an article about Virgin Galactic and Sir Richard Branson’s plans for space exploration. He believes that the company has nearly recovered from the death of test pilot Michael Alsbury in 2014 and that SpaceShipTwo should offer tourist flights very shortly.
Today, four years later, the company says it is once again at that moment. Branson, chastened by the crash and the ensuing federal investigation, recently said that the company is “more than tantalizingly close” and that “we should be in space within weeks, not months.”
Virgin Galactic’s next flight of SpaceShipTwo, its winged and sporty space plane, is scheduled for launch in the coming weeks and could, after years of trying, give Branson his long elusive conquest of blasting through the atmosphere. It would mark a historic milestone for Virgin and Branson, a master of marketing and hype who for years has become an evangelist for space exploration.
[Thanks to Olav Rokne, Steve Green, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Orange Mike Lowrey, Carl Slaughter, StephenfromOttawa, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]