(1) ASKING FOR A MULLIGAN. The Hugo Award Book Club casts aspersions on a 2001 winner in “Harry Potter and the Undeserved Hugo”.
If Hugo Award voters had the prescience to have recognized (via award or nomination) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1998, perhaps it would be more forgivable. But looking at the situation with 15 years of hindsight, it feels like the Hugos were just bandwagon jumping on an established series that was already extraordinarily popular.
It seems to me that honouring the book with a Hugo Award did nothing to help it find new readers, and this feels like an abdication of what the award should be about.
(2) SOUND THE HORN. Since being chastised for misspelling Froot Loops, John King Tarpinian has been doing penitential research about the cereal. Those of you who were saying you can’t get unicorn burgers may want to know you can get unicorn breakfast cereal, for a limited time — “Unicorn Froot Loops Are Now Enchanting Store Shelves”.
Kellogg’s is giving early mornings a major dose of magic. According to Delish, the cereal giant is remixing its fan-favorite Froot Loops with a very 2017 makeover: unicorn.
Almost unrecognizable without Toucan Sam, eagle-eyed shoppers are sure to get pulled in by the rainbows, stars, and a very cute unicorn. The limited-edition cereal comes with new packaging that features the as-yet-unnamed animated unicorn complete with a requisite rainbow mane, but the real magic is inside the box.
While standard Froot Loops are already a Technicolor addition to any breakfast, the unicorn version is a little more subdued, but ups the ante when it comes to trendy hues.
(3) SPEAKING UP. Neil Gaiman voiced a character on The Simpsons on Sunday – a Coraline parody was part of the latest “Treehouse of Horror” episode.
A.V. Club reviewed the overall effort: “The Simpsons walks us through a visually ambitious but forgettable Treehouse Of Horror”.
The 28th “Treehouse Of Horror” carries on the venerable Simpsons institution by, as ever, tossing a whole lot of stuff at the screen and seeing what sticks. To that end, this year’s outing gives us: An Exorcist parody, a Coraline parody, Homer eating human flesh (just his own, but still), stop-motion segments, horror and fantasy-specific guest stars, a little light Fox standards-pushing (Homer does, as stated, eat human flesh), and the usual string of hit-or-miss gags. That last part isn’t really a criticism in itself. Freed up from the need to calibrate the heart-yucks equation, a “Treehouse Of Horror” rises or falls on the strength of its jokes, although the annual Halloween anthology provides its own unique degree of difficulty.
(4) ON THE CANVAS. Walter Jon Williams does a draft cover reveal for the next book in the Praxis Series. He has been making a heroic effort to complete it but the book isn’t cooperating, as he says in “Punch Drunk”.
I haven’t been posting for several days, because I’ve been trying to finish The Accidental War, which (according to the publisher) is Book IV of the Praxis series, but which (according to me alone, apparently) is Book VI, because I count Impersonations and Investments, and they don’t.
See? It even has a cover! Though this may not be the actual cover when it’s released, at the moment it’s just sort of a cover suggestion the art department is playing with.
Wow! Sure looks like MilSF, doesn’t it?
(5) PENRIC. And at Goodreads, Lois McMaster Bujold has shared “The Prisoner of Limnos cover sneak peek” with art by Ron Miller.
So, as promised, here is the e-cover of the new Penric & Desdemona novella. It will be #6 in the current internal chronology (and publishing order.)
The vendor-page copy will read:
“In this sequel novella to “Mira’s Last Dance”, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary.
“Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.”
(6) PRODUCT PLACEMENT. Adweek tells how “A Baby Dragon Brings the Heat for Doritos on Twitter”.
You don’t have to be a Targaryen to know the value of a baby dragon.
When Doritos U.K. released a limited edition of extra-hot tortilla chips called Heatburst this past spring, it became part of the conversation on Twitter by creating its own “celebrity”—a comical, fire-breathing baby dragon—to represent the new flavor.
As described in the video below, the Heatburst campaign, with the hashtags #HeatWillCome and #BabyDragon, centered on the dragon character. It launched with a series of quirky videos where the baby dragon innocently ignited virtually everything around him. As awareness for the product grew, the baby dragon became a Twitter character in his own right, inserting himself into pop-culture moments and current events to keep the brand top of mind. Doritos U.K. did this using a full-range of Twitter formats, including branded emojis, GIFs, and conversational videos.
(7) CONTINUED WEINSTEIN AFTERMATH. The Hollywood Reporter says female animators sent a letter to executives at major animation studios insisting on an end of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Among the 217 women and gender-nonconforming people who signed the letter are Netflix’s head of kids programming Jenna Boyd, Bob’s Burgers producer and writer Wendy Molyneax, Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar and Danger & Eggs co-creator Shadi Petosky, as well as animators of BoJack Horseman, Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls.
The full text of the letter is at The Wrap (“Women Animators Pen Open Letter on Sexual Harassment: ‘This Abuse Has Got to Stop’”.) The demands include:
- Every studio puts in place clear and enforceable sexual harassment policies and takes every report seriously. It must be clear to studio leadership, including producers, that, no matter who the abuser is, they must investigate every report or face consequences themselves.
- The Animation Guild add language in our constitution that states that it can “censure, fine, suspend or expel any member of the guild who shall, in the opinion of the Executive Board, be found guilty of any act, omission, or conduct which is prejudicial to the welfare of the guild.” To craft and support the new language, we ask that an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Committee be created to help educate and prevent future occurrences.
- Our male colleagues start speaking up and standing up for us. When their co-workers make sexist remarks, or when they see sexual harassment happening, we expect them to say something. Stop making excuses for bad behavior in your friends and co-workers, and tell them what they are doing is wrong.
(8) MAKING LIGHT. Overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis is Galactic Journey’s review of the November 1962 Fantastic.
It seems likely that the threat of violence, which hangs over our heads in these troubled times, makes it necessary for us to make light of traditional terrors. We laugh to keep from screaming. As an example, on the same day that China invaded India, Bobby Picket’s novelty song, The Monster Mash, reached the top of the charts.
Appropriately, the latest issue of Fantastic features another comic version of old-fashioned horrors….
It’s Magic, You Dope! (Part 1 of 2), by Jack Sharkey Lloyd Birmingham’s cover art, which reminds me of the macabre cartoons of Charles Addams, captures the spooky but laughable nature of this short novel by editor Cele Goldsmith’s resident comedian.
(9) YESTERDAY’S DAY
October 22 is Wombat Day and it's a day you celebrate wombats. So please celebrate at least one wombat today. pic.twitter.com/qm2k1foK4d
— Michael Meloni (@michaelmeloni) October 22, 2017
(10) THE MALL’S OUR DESTINATION. At Pornokitsch, Jared takes us shopping: “Malls, Mallrats and Browsing”.
Doug Stephens wrote a powerful piece on how ‘to save retail, let it die’. In it, he lists all the ways in which retail is doomed (hi, Amazon!) on his way to a, more-or-less, familiar conclusion: retail spaces need to become experiences.
Stephens posits that the future retail spaces aren’t about buying products at all, but about:
- gathering data
- selling experiences that involve the products
Imagine, I suppose, the LEGO store, but solely with the build-your-own minifig display. And lots of covert measurement over which pieces everyone uses… (Ok, this must happen already, but still. Imagine!)
Then, presumably, we all go home and receive Snapchats telling us that a new set of our favourite LEGO can be purchased, right now. Just wink acceptance, and your facial recognition purchasing programme will do the rest. Then, when you lose a piece, you shout at Alexa, and the replacement follows. Whatever. That sort of thing. All beside the point.
(11) LOU ANDERS. Variety includes Lou Anders’ good news in “‘Dark Matter’ EP Vanessa Piazza Sets Multi-Year Producing Partnership With eOne”.
Piazza is also developing “Masked,” based on the original super-hero fiction anthology edited by Lou Anders, who will also be involved in the series adaptation. Notable comic and graphic novel writers, including Lilah Sturges, Paul Cornell, and Gail Simone whose short stories appear in the book, will contribute to the anthology series, working with Piazza and executive producer and showrunner Joseph Mallozzi.
(12) INDIE FOCUS. The inaugural issue IndiePicks Magazine is now on the street. You can read an electronic copy via their website. Subscriptions to the electronic and paper versions are also available.
Their sff reviewers appear to be Alan Keep and Megan McArdle. Their horror reviewer is Becky Spratford. And their YA reviewer is Magan Szwarek.
(13) EARLY ELECTRONIC MUSIC. NPR on the creator of the Doctor Who theme: “Forebears: Delia Derbyshire, Electronic Music’s Forgotten Pioneer”.
All that changed in 1960 when she went to work at the BBC as a studio manager. She soon became enamored of the Radiophonic Workshop, a division of the media conglomerate dedicated to electronic experimentation. The invention of tape recording in the 1950s allowed sounds to be manipulated in entirely new ways; in a time when radio dramas ruled popular entertainment, the Workshop was a creative — and coveted — place of employment. In 1962, Derbyshire was assigned a position at the workshop, where she’d work for over a decade, becoming a sound specialist and a leading voice in musical counterculture: The weirder her soundscapes became, the more wondrous they felt. She created music for the world’s first fashion show with an electronic soundtrack (and considering the commonality of techno/dance music on the runway, she left a legacy in that field, too). She organized robotic noise in a way that felt truly alien, shocking sounds whole decades ahead of this music’s time.
(14) GUARD YOUR ARTISTIC FREEDOM. Max Florschutz issues a warning in “Being a Better Writer: Preaching to the Choir” at Unusual Things.
They adjust the story that they’re telling so that it is no longer aimed at the general audience, but at those who already buy into it. And that means changing the presentation.
For example, say someone writes a story that is going to preach to the choir with regards to one of the US’s political parties (which happens a lot, unsurprisingly). Writing a story that appeals to the group already supporting that party is going to result in a different story than one written to a general audience. A story that was written for a general audience on the topic would need to, for starters, approach all of its topics from a neutral starting point, as it would need to assume that those approaching the work didn’t share or even know of the authors ideas and views. It would then need to examine the ideals it wanted to present from a variety of points, answering the reader’s questions and concerns—which could be fairly vast—as it attempted to explain the stance of the author. It would also need to do so while maintaining a level voice and giving the various viewpoints a fair shake.
But if we compare that to a title written for an audience that wants to be preached too, most of that will disappear. For example, that audience does not want to start from a neutral point. They’ve already left that ground. They want a position already ensconced in their stance. Nor do they want to examine their own beliefs from a variety of angles—that can raise uncomfortable questions and truths that they’d rather not deal with—so each angle approached must be designed to reinforce that safe space they’ve already built for themselves by making sure that all other ideas, themes, etc, are wrong. It also can’t have a level voice nor give equal treatment to other views; after all, those views are wrong. Lastly, to preach to the choir, the work needs to reinforce the idea that the audience is safe where it is, that they have made the right or smart decision by believing what they believe.
And the truth is, creating this kind of work is extraordinarily popular. Everywhere. Because there’s a guaranteed audience as long as the “choir” exists. Michael Moore films, for example? One-hundred percent preaching to the choir. Baptist-ploitation films like God’s Not Dead? Also preaching to the choir. And many, many others—crud, you readers along could probably fill the comments with thousands of works from all sides of any spectrum or idea that preach to the choir. It works because it appeals to a set audience that wants to be told that they’re right, to be reinforced without thinking critically (or in some cases, by being giving a thought that sounds critical, but actually isn’t). And that audience? They eat this kind of pandering up.
… So, with that said—specifically the bit about a quick buck—why wouldn’t you want to preach to the choir? Why not go for it?
Well, the answer is pretty simple: Once you do, it’s hard to go back. Once you’ve started writing stories that support that little “safe zone,” you’ve effectively shackled yourself to it and to that audience. That audience is going to want more of the same, and if you don’t deliver it, they will become unhappy.
(15) I’M NOT OKAY, YOU’RE NOT OKAY. Douglas Smith spends the first four paragraphs of “On Writing of a Different Culture” at the SFWA Blog apologizing for world history before getting to the point:
So, yes, I was a tad paranoid of being accused of cultural appropriation.
Let me first explain why I was drawn to Cree and Ojibwe culture for The Wolf at the End of the World.
If you think you’re doing something wrong, wouldn’t it be better to not do it? If you haven’t done something wrong, why are you apologizing?
(16) JOE HILL. Lisa Taylor reviews “Strange Weather by Joe Hill” for The Speculative Herald.
Strange Weather is a collection of 4 short novels, each telling a unique story. They are all independent of one another, and could be read in any order. I may not rate this one quite as high as most of the works I’ve read by Hill, but I suspect most of that comes from my preference for longer works. The stories are quick and varied covering funny to horrifying to creepy and the main character in each are varied.
(17) PERSONAL BEST. Here’s a record that will appear with an asterix next to it.
I've never looked sexier. pic.twitter.com/5rHRYi30vW
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 22, 2017
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Dann, Andrew Porter, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ryan H.]