[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]
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!)
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!
… Across the room, the quest for new materials continues, with a wafting terylene dress from 1941, and a screening of the exuberant 1951 Ealing comedy The Man in the White Suit, with Alec Guinness as the naïve inventor of an indestructible textile fleeing from angry industrialists and workers, saved only when his magic material disintegrates around him. There’s a lot of fun, as well as science, in this show—and some joyous artistic accidents, like David Hockney’s encounter with a polaroid camera, which he used for the dazzling grid of Sun on the Pool, Los Angeles (1982). “Drawing with a camera,” he called it.
In the next section, “Human Machines,” the note of fear enters fully with the trauma of mechanized carnage in World War I. A case holds pioneering artificial limbs from the 1920s, and in Otto Dix’s Card Players (1920), three disfigured soldiers sit round a table, their torn limbs and missing jaws replaced by fantastical prosthetics. The destructive technology of warfare and the constructive skill of limb-makers have turned Dix’s men into monsters. Have they, perhaps, become machines themselves?…
(3) TOOLBOX 2020. Applications for Taos Toolbox will be
taken beginning December 1. The two-week Master Class in
Science Fiction and Fantasy will be taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy
Kress, with special guest George R.R. Martin and special lecturer E.M. Tippetts.
The class runs June 7-20, 2020.
The Terran Award full attending Scholarship is available again
this year, sponsored by George R.R. Martin, to bring an aspiring SF writer from
a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox. The award covers all
tuition and fees to the Toolbox (but not meals or travel). Applicants
will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where
English is not the primary language. WJW and the Toolbox staff will
select the winner.
Seven years ago, my house had 20 floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and about the same number of half-sized bookcases — about 5000 books, excluding the comics. The house was essentially full of books and comic books. Today I have ten tall bookcases, and a couple short ones. What follows is the road map from here to there — halving the number of books in my life. I have been hearing of many friends having to smallify their space, and maybe this will help!…
(5) ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT. It’s The Joker vs Pennywise in
the latest round of Epic Rap Battles Of History.
The Joker and Pennywise clown around in the eighth battle of ERB Season 6! Who won? Who’s next? You decide!
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
November 24, 1958 — Devil Girl From Mars premiered in Swedish theaters. It starred Patricia Laffan and Hazel Court, reviewers called this UK film delightfully bad. It however is considered just bad at Rotten Tomatoes with a 23% rating.
November 24, 1985 — Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premieredon ABC. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the critics found it mostly harmless. It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 24, 1882 — E. R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his much lesser known later Zimiamvian Trilogy. I’m reasonably that sure I’ve read The Worm Ouroboros but way too long ago to remember anything about it. Silverberg in the Millenium Fantasy Masterworks Series edition of this novel said he considered it to be “the greatest high fantasy of them all”. (Died 1945.)
Born November 24, 1907 — Evangeline Walton. Her best-known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected. She has won a number of Awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award, World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
Born November 24, 1916 — Forrest J. Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a a Hugo forfor #1 Fan Personality in 1953 and equally telling that when he was handed the trophy at Philcon II (by Asimov), he physically declined saying it should go to Ken Slater to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. You want more? As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. Hell. he represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp which she assuredly is, He appeared in several hundred films which I’ll not list here and even wrote lesbian erotica. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His non-fiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science Fiction, A Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well he did. Just one location of his collection contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame who now have possession of many items of his collection. (Died 2008.)
Born November 24, 1948 — Spider Robinson, 71. His first story, “The Guy with the Eyes,” was published in Analog (February 1973). It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction. His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife Jeanne Robinson. In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than can be comfortably listed here.
Born November 24, 1957 — Denise Crosby, 62. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. In other genre work, she was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s done what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages.
Born November 24, 1957 — John Zakour, 62. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books?
Born November 24, 1957 — Jeff Noon, 62. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works.
Born November 24, 1965 — Shirley Henderson, 54. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “ Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s if because of the metanarrative aspect.
(8) GAHAN WILSON IN HIS PRIME. Andrew Porter shared three photos
of cartoonist Gahan Wilson from the Eighties and Nineties.
If you’re hip to fanziner jokes – maybe I should’ve said hep, many of them started in the 1940s and 1950s – and the Cosmic Joker just now led me to mistype started with a v instead of the second t – you know we send poctsarcds. If you don’t, you can look it up here. Or it’s a good occasion to consult A Wealth of Fable (H. Warner, Jr., rev. 1992; see here).
Once in my fanzine Vanamonde I sleepily let stand the mistyping – or mis-mistyping – “poctsacrd”. Jack Speer promptly sent a letter of comment “Nothing is sacrd.”
(10) WISHLIST DESTINATIONS. Paul Weimer got a huge response
to his tweet – here are two examples.
Since I have more space (and fewer limitations on things like spoilers) on my own blog, I’d like to elaborate a little on the review, and particularly the sense I got that the Wormwood trilogy changed as it expanded from a standalone to a series. When I first read Rosewater (and even more so when I reread it last month, in preparation for writing this review) I was struck by how clearly it belonged to the subgenre of “zone” science fiction. Originating with the Strugatsky brothers’ 1972 novel Roadside Picnic (and the 1979 Tarkovsky film, Stalker, inspired by it), “zone” novels imagine that some segment of normal space has erupted into strangeness, a zone where the normal rules of physics, biology, and causality no longer apply, and whose residents–or anyone who wanders in–are irretrievably altered in some fundamental way. The zone also represents a disruption to existing power structures, and the plots of zone novels often revolve around characters who have been dispatched by the state to infiltrate the zone in an attempt to control or at least understand it–an effort that is doomed to failure. Recent examples of zone novels include Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X trilogy and M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy (and particularly the middle volume, Nova Swing). I’ve even seen a persuasive argument that the HBO miniseries Chernobyl can be read as zone science fiction, because of its unreal, heightened depiction of the region around the exploded reactor, and because the effects that the unseen radiation it spews have on people, animals, and plant life in the surrounding areas track so closely with the subgenre’s central trope of cellular-level change.
I saw Frozen II last night. It’s an OK movie – I didn’t love the first one very much, but I do appreciate the attempt to expand the story into a broader fantasy epic (even if it seems to borrow shamelessly from Avatar: The Last Airbender with barely even a fraction of that show’s skill at constructing plot and themes). But I’ve been thinking about the film’s handling of the theme of ancestral wrongs and making reparations for them, and the more I do the angrier I get, so here are some spoilery observations.
The issue, Marvel Comics No. 1 — published in October 1939 by Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel in the 1960s — sold for $1.26 million, the highest price ever at public auction for a comic made by the company, according to a Heritage Auctions press release.
The comic was given a 9.4 rating out of 10 by Certified Guaranty Company, and is the highest-rated copy of the issue in existence.
(16) RAINBOW CONNECTION. “Cinema Classics: The Wizard of Oz” on Saturday
Night Live provides an alternate ending to the 1938 film.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Michael
Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Ellen Datlow, and
Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]
A tornado with winds of 165 m.p.h. cut a swath through Dallas just a mile south of our house yesterday evening after dark. A powerful gust snapped the trunk of our 70 ft mesquite halfway up and sent it crashing down into our front yard. The only property damage we sustained was to our yard light. Seeing all the destruction in the news this morning, we are thankful we came through relatively unscathed.
(2) AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. Just in case the Marvel Cinematic
Universe needs any defense against the negative opinions of Martin Scorsese and
Francis Ford Coppola, a couple of well-known figures connected with the MCU have
Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them “despicable”. Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, “I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!” Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful….
I think there’s room for all types of cinema,” she told The Hollywood Reporter at the 6th annual Los Angeles Dance Project Gala on Saturday at downtown Los Angeles’ Hauser & Wirth. “There’s not one way to make art.”
“I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life.”
(3) HOW EAGER
ARE YOU? ESPN will be airing the final
trailer for Star
Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker tonight
during Monday Night Football.
(4) NAVIGATING THE ROCKETS SAFELY HOME. In “What happened to the 1944 Retro Hugos?”, Nicholas Whyte asks fans to consider the burden of producing a whole run of trophies when it’s this hard to find homes for them after the ceremony. Of course, the job would have been a little easier if the nominees with accepters had won:
…I’m glad to say that we did have a few designated acceptors in the room on the night. Apart from those noted below, Betsy Wollheim was on hand in case her father Donald won (unfortunately he lost in all three categories where he was nominated); June and Naomi Rosenblum were there for their father-in-law/grandfather J. Michael Rosenblum; Stephanie Breijo was there for her great-grandfather Oscar J. Friend; and Harper Collins sent a rep for C.S. Lewis. So, for 66 finalists, we had acceptors on hand for 10. Future Worldcons might like to bear that in mind when planning whether or not to run Retro Hugo Awards.
This is what happened with the trophies, in increasing order of the difficulty we had in dealing with them….
However, that respect for the decision did not last long. On Friday, Abdin announced that he was appealing the verdict and was launching a GoFundMe to finance the campaign. As of this writing, that campaign has raised more than $17,500 from more than 470 donors and is inching closer to its $20,000 goal….
(7) CONFACTS. Kees Van Toorn announced that all issues of ConFacts, the daily newsletter of ConFiction,
the 1990 Worldcon, have been uploaded on their archival website in flipbook format.
David Mack is a New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure. His most recent works are The Midnight Front and The Iron Codex, parts one and two of his Dark Arts trilogy from Tor Books. He currently works as a creative consultant on two upcoming Star Trek television series.
Max Gladstone is the author of Empress of Forever, the Hugo finalist Craft Sequence, and, with Amal El-Mohtar, This is How You Lose the Time War, in addition to his work with short and serial fiction, games, screenwriting, and comics. He has been a finalist for the Hugo, John W Campbell /Astounding, XYZZY, and Lambda Awards, and was once thrown from a horse in Mongolia.
The event starts at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th
Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York, NY.
(9) FANFICTION. Sff writer Sara L. Uckelman,
Professor of logic and philosophy of language at Durham University, issued an
invitation: “Anyone interested in the paper behind the talk, my paper ‘Fanfiction,
Canon, and Possible Worlds’ can be downloaded here.”
…The study of fanfiction from a philosophical point of view raises a number of questions: What is fanfiction? What distinguishes it from ordinary fiction? How can we make sense of what is going on when people create and interact with fanfiction? In this paper, I consider two competing accounts of fanfiction—the derivative or dependent account and the constitutive account—and argue that these competing views parallel two competing ways in which a possible worlds account of fiction can be fleshed out, namely, Lewis’s modal realist account and Kripke’s stipulative view. I further argue that this parallel is not a mere parallel, but provides us with a test of adequacy for the possible worlds accounts: It is worthless to provide a philosophical account of the theoretical foundations of fiction if such an account doesn’t coordinate with the actual practice and production of fiction.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
October 21, 1977 — Damnation Alley premiered. Based somewhat on Zelazny’s novel, it starred George Peppard as Major Eugene “Sam” Denton and Jan-Michael Vincent as 1st Lt. Jake Tanner. It bombed and was pulled quickly. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 34%. For now at least, it’s on YouTube here.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 21, 1904 — Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late 20s to the late 40s, writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say that through the late 1920s and early 1930s Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing. His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by a vote of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early 40s to the late 60s, he work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. Now there is another story as well. (Died 1977.)
Born October 21, 1914 — Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books, is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”. Cool! (Died 2010.)
Born October 21, 1929 — Ursula Le Guin. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer instead preferring be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, showed in her writing. And the home library of the family had a lot of SF in it. If you’re interested in the awards she won in her career, she garnered the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award. At last she was also awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters It won’t surprise you that she was made a SFWA Grandmaster, one of the few women writers so honored. (Died 2018.)
Born October 21, 1933 — Georgia Brown. She’s the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)
Born October 21, 1945 — Everett McGill, 74. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and in Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually has a decent rating of 55% at Rotten Tomatoes!
Born October 21, 1956 — Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday Special, The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the forthcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the Moon, The Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. (Died 2016.)
Born October 21, 1973 — Sasha Roiz, 45. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on Grimm but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds.
…Consider the name of the alien space station for which Pohl’s book gets its name: Gateway. In the same way that taking highly random and highly dangerous alien space flights is the gateway to potential wealth, the capitalist system is also the gateway to the extreme fortune of the limited few that have, through luck or pluck, benefited most from the system. But no billionaire earns their riches without exploiting populations. Behind every fortune are the underpaid, the underfed, the forgotten, and the have nothings. The capitalist system, most simply defined, is a system of using the work of others and the work of wealth itself, to gain more wealth. It doesn’t take too much mental work to see that people are a form of capital in the capitalist system. Indeed, within capitalism everything is a form of capital. The best capitalist is the individual that figures out how to make more out of what they have….
(14) MYLNE’S GENRE ART. Artist James Mylne has been in the
news lately (see, for instance ITV: “Boris Johnson turns into The Joker in
new artwork”) for a political commentary that leans heavily on a genre
reference. Filers might, therefore, be interested to know that his work has
sometimes borrowed from other genre sources also. Example below.
(15) SOLARIS ON STAGE. Those passing through London between now and November 2 can see the play Solaris (nearest tube/metro/underground is Hammersmith).
On a space station orbiting Solaris, three scientists have made contact with a new planet.
Sent from earth to investigate reports of abnormal activity on-board, Kris Kelvin arrives to find one crew member dead and two who are seeing things that cannot be explained.
When her dead lover appears to her, it seems she too has fallen victim to the mystery of this strange planet. Should she return to reality, or is this her chance to turn back time?
Have the crew been studying Solaris – or has it been studying them?
This psychological thriller asks who we are when we’re forced to confront our deepest fears.
(16) ATWOOD PROFILE. Behind a paywall in the October 12 Financial
Times, Horatia Harrod has a lengthy interview with Margaret Atwood.
In Oryx and Crake, Atwood wrote about a world decimated by environmental catastrophe; her understanding of the fragility of the Earth and the rapaciousness of its human inhabitants came early. “My father was already talking about this over the dinner table in 1955,” says Atwood, who has been committed to raising awareness of the climate crisis for decades (she promised her 2000 Booker Prize winnings to charities dedicated to endangered animals. “There is so much data and evidence. But people would rather adhere to a belief system that favours them. So, what view of the climate is going to make more money for me?”
Atwood’s mother, meanwhile, was a tomboy, whose favored pastimes were speedskating, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, not doing housework. “I can’t think of much she was afraid of. This is a mother who chased a bear away with a broom, saying the following word: ‘Scat!’” There were other tough female role models:”Inuit women, who have done some pretty spectacular things. My aunt Ada, who I named a character in The Testaments after, was a hunting and fishing guide, and a crack shot with a .22.”
(17) PLANETARY ANTHOLOGIES MIGRATE. Superversive Press has dropped
the Planetary Anthologies line says
Declan Finn, whose contribution, Luna, is awaiting publication. (Indeed,
a search on Amazon showed Superversive Press books as a whole are now only
available from third-party vendors.) However, Finn says another publisher is stepping
The Planetary Anthology series is being discontinued.
In fact, even the five anthologies that have been published already have been discontinued. They will no longer be available for sale online from the publisher.
Which is odd for me. Especially after a year where the Area 51 anthology I was in this year was conceived of, edited, and released in 3 months from call for stories to publication.
So, yeah, the original publisher isn’t doing them anymore.
Finn says “the anthologies have all been picked up again by Tuscany Bay Books,” the imprint of Richard Paolinelli whose own unpublished Planetary Anthology, Pluto, will be next to appear. Contributors to these anthologies have included Jody Lyn Nye, Dawn Witzke, Lou Antonelli, Paolinelli, L Jagi Lamplighter, Hans G. Schantz, John C. Wright, Joshua M. Young and many others.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Lego In Real Life TRILOGY” on YouTube, Brick Bros.
Productions looks at what happens when common household objects turn into Legos.
[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (please roll him a meatball).]
Here’s the logline on Way Station: For more than 100 years Enoch Wallace has been the keeper of a Way Station on Earth for intergalactic alien travelers as they teleport across the universe. But the gifts of knowledge and immortality that his intergalactic guests have bestowed upon him are proving to be a nightmarish burden, for they have opened Enoch’s eyes to humanity’s impending destruction. Still, one final hope remains for the human race.
A second Game of Thrones prequel is in the works at HBO.
Sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter that the premium cable network is near a deal for a pilot order for a prequel set 300 years before the events of the flagship series that tracks the beginnings and the end of House Targaryen. Ryan Condal (Colony) and Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin will pen the script for the drama, which is based on Martin’s book Fire & Blood.
…I asked myself three questions, then, to challenge my knee-jerk defense of the status quo–and I’d encourage you to employ similar the next time a group decision focussed on harm-reduction finds you, initially, “on” or “on the other side of” the fence.
1. To whom are you listening in this debate?
In the wake of my defensiveness, I had to make a concerted effort to read counterpoints to my perspective. Lots of them. And as I did, I took note of the times when I felt the greatest urgency to seek out both-sides-ism, to return to the security of others whose initial reactions were the same as mine: folks reluctant to change the name of this award, to own up to the pain Sheldon’s story has left in the hearts of many living human beings.
Critically, too, I didn’t then seek out those arguments when I wanted to–because what need did I have of them? They’d be sheer preaching to the choir, like the reading of apologetics for some Christians when faced with doubts. But I did note the contexts in which I most wanted to dive for shelter… and those contexts? They were usually when someone said something that challenged me to reason from empathy, to recognize the humanity of other people marginalized by Sheldon’s prominence at potential cost to the value of her disabled husband’s life. At those points most of all, I felt the urge to hide behind the presumption of neutrality, in superficial phrasing like, Well, no one can say for sure what happened that night!
Which, sure, is true… but then why was I still automatically favouring one interpretation–the more convenient interpretation–over another that people were actively telling me did harm to their sense of full and safe inclusion in SF?
…Toy Biz’s motion acknowledged that the X-Men “manifest human characteristics at varying degrees,” but argued that most are more of a mixed bag of human and non-human aspects. For example, the document specifically calls out Wolverine (rude!) for having “long, sharplooking [sic] claws grafted onto his hands that come out from under his skin along with wolf-like hair and ears.”
Don’t body-shame Wolverine! He tries very hard!
Judge Barzilay’s official ruling, in which Toy Biz prevailed, states “the action figure playthings at issue here are not properly classifiable as ‘dolls’ under the HTSUS by virtue of various non-human characteristics they exhibit.”
You’re a parent. You love horror. But horror is scary. So how to share this love of horror with your young, innocent, in-love-with-the-world child?
…For me and my family, the first step to introducing horror was to introduce the language of scares without, really, the fear. It’s hard to be a little kid. You are tiny, and surrounded by giants. Nothing makes sense, and every outcome is uncertain. Mom’s leaving…Will she come back?! How long is an hour?! It’s unknowable. And worse, there might actually be a monster under the bed. Or in the closet — you just don’t know.
This is where Vincent Price and Scooby-Doo came in handy. It’s pretty unlikely any kid is going to be legitimately frightened by an episode of Scooby-Doo. And yet, there are ghosts, goblins, witches, vampires, werewolves, creepers, and more, all running about. I’m actually not a huge Scooby fan, but I found the Cartoon Network Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated series to be excellent. I watched a big chunk of it with my kids, who were five and seven at the time. They loved it, and still do. We re-watch episodes regularly. In a world where asking a kid who has grown up with an iPhone to watch Bela Lugosi’s Dracula seems like a bridge too far, this is a show that is fast-paced, conversant in horror tropes, dabbles in grotesque/frightening imagery, and is funny, smart, and good. It’s also a show that prominently features Vincent Van Ghoul, who is a not-at-all-disguised representation of Vincent Price.
…So far, that action includes two rather modest initiatives, unveiled on Wednesday. One is an online petition (eBooksForAll.org) urging Sargent and Macmillan to reconsider the publisher’s recently announced embargo. The other is a new online book club, in partnership with OverDrive. The “Libraries Transform Book Pick” will offer library users unlimited access to a selected e-book for two weeks, with no holds list and no waiting. The first pick is Kassandra Montag’s debut novel After the Flood (HarperCollins), which will be available for unlimited e-book checkouts at public libraries from October 7-21.
(7) WORDS OF A FEATHER. Paul Di Filippo’s F&SF
column “Plumage from
Pegasus” tells all about a collaboration by two of the genre’s
founders that was largely unknown ‘til a couple of years ago: Flora Columbia: Goddess of a New Age, by Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.
In the year 1901, with the publication of his ninth novel, The First Men in the Moon, H. G. Wells, then a thirty-five-year-old wunderkind, cemented his reputation as the leading purveyor of “scientific romances.” The acclaim accorded to this British upstart, however, did not sit well with the aging lion of the nascent genre, Jules Verne—then an ailing seventy-three and just a few years away from his own death. Verne did not care for Wells’s less-stringent approach to scientific speculation, nor for his wilder imagination. In fact, Verne was so perturbed that he gave vent to his famous direct criticism of the novel: “I sent my characters to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does M. Wells find his cavorite? Let him show it to me!”
So much is a matter of historical record. But what came next remained secret until just recently.
Both irked and disappointed by the jab from this venerable figure who had done so much to pioneer imaginative literature and whose respect he would have relished, Wells did a daring thing. On a mission both conciliatory and confrontational, he journeyed to France to confront the Master. In Amiens, at 44 Boulevard de Longueville, he was received with a wary hospitality. But after some awkward conversation over a lunch of calvados and choucroute garnie, the two writers found a shared footing in their mutual love of “science fiction,” a term they would not even have recognized. And then, impulsively, they decided to seal their tentative new friendship in a manner befitting their shared passion.
They would collaborate on a short novel….
(8) COLLINS OBIT. Charles Collins (1935-2019) died August 26 at the age of 83. He worked as a Publisher’s Representative, eventually becoming co-owner of Como Sales Company. Also, with Donald M. Grant, he co-founded Centaur Press, later renamed Centaur Books, a small press active from 1969 through 1981.
It was primarily a paperback publisher, though one of its more successful titles was reissued in hardcover. It was notable for reviving pulp adventure and fantasy works of the early twentieth century for its “Time-Lost Series.”
Authors whose works were returned to print include Robert E. Howard, Arthur O. Friel, Talbot Mundy, H. Warner Munn, and William Hope Hodgson. In the sole anthology it issued, the press also premiered a new work by Lin Carter. In later years it also published longer works by contemporary authors, including Carter, Galad Elflandsson, and Robb Walsh. Its books featured cover art by Jeff Jones, Virgil Finlay, Frank Brunner, Stephen Fabian, Randy Broecker, and David Wenzel.
The family obituary is here.
Collins’ own history of Como Sales Company is here.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
September 13, 1969 – CBS introduced Scooby Doo, Where Are You? 50 years ago this week: Quoting the Wikipedia —
September 13, 1974 — Planet of the Apes debuted as a weekly television series with the “Escape from Tomorrow” episode. Roddy McDowall was once again Galen. Due to really poor rating, CBS canceled the series after 14 episodes.
September 13, 1999 — On this day, in the timeline inhabited by the crew of Space: 1999, the events told in the “Breakaway” premier episode happened.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 13, 1898 — Arthur J. Burks. He sold his first stories to Weird Tales in 1924. He became one of the “million-word-a-year” men in the pulp magazines by dint of his tremendous output. He wrote in the neighborhood of eight hundred stories for the pulps. Both iBooks and Kindle have some of his fiction available for free if you care to see how this pulp writer reads. (Died 1974.)
Born September 13, 1926 — Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or that he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted the UK Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. My favorite Dahl work is The BFG. What’s yours? (Died 1990.)
Born September 13, 1931 — Barbara Bain, 86. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell. I will confess that I never watched the latter. Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart!
Born September 13, 1932 — Dick Eney. Most notably, in 1959 he published Fancyclopedia 2, an over two hundred page encyclopedia of all things fandom. He worked on committees for Discon I, Discon II, and Constellation and was the Fan Guest of Honor at L.A.Con II, the 1984 Worldcon. He served as OE of FAPA and SAPS and was a member of The Cult and the Washington in ’77 Worldcon bid. He was toastmaster at Conterpoint 1993. (Died 2006.)
Born September 13, 1936 — Richard Sapir. Pulp writer in spirit if not in actuality. Among his many works is The Destroyer series of novels that he co-created with Warren Murphy. (Murphy would write them by himself after death of Sapir starting with the seventy-first novel until the series concluded with ninety-sixth novel.) And the main character in them is Remo Williams who you’ll no doubt recognize from Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins where Fred Ward played Remo which I’ve watched but remember nothing of thirty years on. (Died 1987.)
Born September 13, 1939 — Richard Kiel. He’s definitely best remembered for being the steely mouthed Jaws n The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Now let’s see what other SFF films he’s been in… His very last genre work was voicing Vlad in the animated Tangled with first his being The Salorite in The Phantom Planet. He was Eegah in the low budget horror film Eegah, a giant House of the Damned, Dr. Kolos in The Human Duplicators, Psychiatric Hospital Patient in Brainstorm, Bolob in the Italian L’umanoide, internationally released as The Humanoid, and he reprised his Jaws character in Inspector Gadget. Series wise, he’s shown up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Twilight Zone, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Wild Wild West (where he working in a recurring role with Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Loveless), I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, Land of The Lost and Superboy. (Died 2014.)
Born September 13, 1944 — Jacqueline Bisset, 75. I never pass up a Bond performance and so she’s got on the Birthday Honors by being Giovanna Goodthighs in Casino Royale even though that might have been one of the dumbest character names ever. As near as I can tell, until she shows up in as Charlotte Burton in the “Love the Lie” episode of Counterpart that’s her entire encounter with genre acting.
Born September 13, 1947 — Mike Grell, 72. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green Arrow, The Warlord, and Jon Sable Freelance. The Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne as Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth .
Born September 13, 1961 — Tom Holt, 59. Assuming you like comical fantasy, I’d recommend both Faust Among Equals and Who Afraid of Beowulf? as being well worth time. If you madly, truly into Wagner, you’ll love Expecting Someone Taller; if not, skip it.
Born September 13, 1969 — Bob Eggleton, 50. He’s has been honored with the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist eight times! He was guest of honor at Chicon 2000. There’s a reasonably up to date look at his artwork, Primal Darkness: The Gothic & Horror Art of Bob Eggleton which he put together in 2010 and was published by Cartouche Press.
Mapping Winter (2019) is Marta Randall’s reworking of her 1983 novel, The Sword of Winter. (Randall talks more about the story behind the book here.) Its release as Mapping Winter was followed shortly by the all-new sequel The River South, with the two novels making up the RIDERS GUILD series. It’s a secondary-world fantasy, but without magic; I was about two-thirds of the way through the book when I realized, “Huh, I don’t think there’s been any magic!” What it does have is a nation poised between feudalism and industrialization.
Kazuma Kamachi’s ongoing series of short novels and their associated manga and anime (A Certain Magical Index, A Certain Scientific Railgun, A Certain Scientific Accelerator, etc.) is set in Academy City. The city is home to over two million students, most of whom have some degree of reality-breaking Esper power. Some can control electromagnetism; some can keep objects at a constant temperature. Imagine the Xavier School for the Gifted with the population of Paris, France. Unlike the leadership of Xavier’s school, however, the people running Academy City are ambitious people entirely unfamiliar with the concepts of consent or ethics….
(13) ABOUT THAT DEAD HORSE. Good point – after all, how many people would watch a channel that mostly runs commercials?
…In a world of twitter, and direct messages, and texts, and instant social media, long form letters are a delightful retro technology and form. Epistolary novels and stories, never the most common of forms even when letters were dominant as a means of communication, are exceedingly distinctive just by their format in this day and age. It’s a bold choice by the authors to have the two agents, Red (from a technological end state utopia) and Blue (from a biological super consciousness utopia) to start their correspondence and to have their letters (which take increasingly unusual forms as described in the narrative) be the backbone of the action. Every chapter has one of the principals in action, and a letter from the other principals, giving a harmonic balance for the reader as far as perspective. But it is within the letters themselves that the novella truly sings and shows its power.
The theme of Sarah Moss’s latest novel, Ghost Wall, can be summed up by a William Faulkner quote: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even really past.” Sylvie’s father plans an unusual vacation for their family: joining a local college professor’s project to spend a couple of weeks living the way British people did in the Bronze Age. This involves some of the physical discomforts you would expect, such as foraging for food in the summer heat and living in huts. But things take a darker turn as Sylvie’s father’s fascination with the period deepens into obsession. And not all the hazards of the era were natural ones; there’s evidence that a nearby bog was a site of human sacrifice….
(16) ALASDAIR STUART. It’s Full Lid o’clock!
(17) THE MESSAGE. Joseph Hurtgen has just released his
second sff novel with a theme chosen for reasons he explains in “Why I Wrote an Anti-Gun, Anti-Trump, Environmental
Science Fiction Novel “. “This novel is an exercise in hoping our
democracy outlasts this election cycle, hoping our generation doesn’t destroy
the planet, and hoping that we could rise above greed to make our nation safe
for our children. What better place to do all this hoping than in the pages of
The book follows William Tecumseh Sherman as he time travels around America’s history, talking to presidents that like their guns and aren’t interested in instituting environmental protections.
I realize that it’s a bit of stretch that Sherman would get involved politically. Sherman once said if he was elected, he wouldn’t serve. But isn’t that precisely the kind of leader America needs? Someone disinterested in leadership wouldn’t likely have ulterior motives for holding a position of power: no Putins to please, no buildings to build in Moscow or the Middle East.
But the reality of American politics is that those willing to profit from power are rewarded for it. In 2019, the emoluments clause might as well be struck from the record. It clearly isn’t taken seriously. But emoluments are only the tip of the ugly iceberg.
It’s being promoted as the biggest live immersive game yet. Variant 31 is theatre – there are 150 real-life performers involved. But its creator is hoping it will bring in video gamers – and people who like jumping out of aircraft.
If you heard reports of reanimated cadavers roaming at will beneath New Oxford Street you might suppose London had been having a particularly bad day for public transport.
But producer Dalton M Dale is proud to stand in a slightly musty former shop basement and talk of the malevolent band of marauding zombies he’s adding to the growing world of immersive theatre.
He’s from North Carolina but in 2017 he came to London after a few years working on immersive shows in New York.
“London is the place to push the envelope of what immersive storytelling can do: the point about Variant 31 is that as you move through our really large site you get actively involved in the story. That’s instead of standing at a slight distance and observing and admiring, which has often been the case with even the best immersive experiences.”
…”You start at Patient Intake at Toxico Technologies,” Dale explains. “Toxico 25 years ago has manufactured strange and nefarious materials for chemical warfare. You are given a piece of wrist technology which at key points across 35 floors will allow you to do various things: you can alter the lighting and open hidden passages and even change the weather.
“Creatures emerge as you move through. From the moment you step into this world the hunt is on and someone wants to catch you. Oh, and always bear in mind: the only way to kill a zombie is to aim for the head.
Players score points by killing the creatures and at the end of the experience there will be just one winner from your group. “We claim this is the first truly immersive experience: it’s not spoon-fed like some other shows. Your presence matters and genuinely changes what goes on.”
A Russian activist used a drone to get his data out of his high-rise flat when police came to search it.
Sergey Boyko says he sent hard drives to a friend by drone when police banged at his door at 10:00 local time, to avoid them getting hold of the data.
The search was part of a nationwide crackdown on the opposition.
Around 200 raids have been carried out in the past few days after the ruling party suffered major losses in local elections in Moscow.
A YouTube video taken (in Russian) by a female companion shows Mr Boyko, who lives in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, releasing a drone from his flat in a tall apartment block as police wait to be let in.
Mr Boyko heads the local branch of the movement of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who campaigned for voters to defeat candidates of the United Russia party using tactical voting in Sunday’s city council election.
The activists say the raids are a form of revenge by the authorities for the setbacks.
OF THE DAY. In A Month of Type on Vimeo, Mr Kaplin animates
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock,
John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Joseph Hurtgen, IanP, and Andrew Porter for
some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrbuting editor of the
day Matthew Johnson.]
The following excerpt is taken from an email conversation with friends about some online reactions to a screed someone had posted about how kids these days should get off of their lawn with their “fandoms” with an s and their fanwriters who are not oldphart fans, among other things. I was trying to explain to my friends how one particular misunderstanding involving the usage of “fandom” versus the usage of “fandoms” was making things so much worse, and how I had had very little luck explaining the particular connotations involved to either group of the fans involved.
Please note that the following has been edited for clarity, but I’m not guaranteeing I actually reached that destination….
(2) DIVE INTO WORLDBUILDING. Juliette Wade’s new Diving
Into Worldbuilding introduces readers to Cadwell Turnbull and interviews him
about how he devised the background for his novel: “Cadwell
Turnbull and The Lesson“. Read the synopsis at the link, and/or watch the video:
We were all really excited to meet Cadwell Turnbull and talk to him about his new novel, The Lesson. This is a first contact novel featuring aliens in the Virgin Islands. It takes place five years after the alien Ynaa integrated with humans, and examines the tensions and conflicts between humans and Ynaa. Cadwell told us it deals with the murky relationship between the two groups, and the social, personal, and cultural effects of having highly advanced aliens living here.
Cadwell explained that the Ynaa have one basic technology. “Reefs” are intelligent cells that manage body health and also change the Ynaa’s physiology so they can fit in. They can also be used for technology, ships, cities, and other things. The reefs can build themselves. This technology can also be used to kill people.
This list sprung from a short question: What is a song you feel best represents Afrofuturism? From that starting point, a number of artists, academics, authors, curators and creative minds contributed selections that reflect both canon and alternate cuts. This list is necessarily limited: The expansive applications of Afrofuturist thought means anything definitive remains out of reach. But wherever and however Afrofuturism travels, it remains a space of utmost creative freedom and expressive possibility.
The titles on the home page are linked to short articles about
I gave my fans a chance to “buy” a novel via Kickstarter I would ordinarily have backburnered and they decided they wanted it. The Kickstarter is still running but they’ve already hit my 10K goal (and in less than five days).
I continue to think it’s cool that we live in an age where fans can fund the books they want that authors would otherwise not have been able to afford. 🙂
The fundraising is not just about the book as a whole
— Hogarth has set up an interesting menu of almost 20 different scenarios or
character interactions that people can contribute toward having included in the
(6) SPACEWAR. MIT
Technology Review news editor Nial Firth penned an article warning that
war in space isn’t just a concern for science fiction writers, suggesting that
the first skirmishes may already be occurring — “How to fight a war in space (and get away with it)”
– behind a paywall at Technology Review. As Firth writes:
“The major spacefaring nations ratified the treaty [against militarization
of space] long ago, but the ambitions of the treaty to codify peaceful uses of
space seem increasingly distant, as hawkish rhetoric and actions grow more
In March, India became only the fourth country in the world—after Russia, the US, and China—to successfully destroy a satellite in orbit. Mission Shakti, as it was called, was a demonstration of a direct-ascent anti-satellite weapon (ASAT)—or in plain English, a missile launched from the ground. Typically this type of ASAT has a “kill vehicle,” essentially a chunk of metal with its own guidance system, mounted on top of a ballistic missile. Shortly after the missile leaves the atmosphere, the kill vehicle detaches from it and makes small course corrections as it approaches the target. No explosives are needed; at orbital speeds, kinetic energy does the damage.
…In a Yang presidency, election results would be verified through blockchain (an encryption system best known for shoring up cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin), quantum computing research would be better funded, and a Legion of Builders and Destroyers would have the power to overrule local zoning and land-use decisions for the greater infrastructure good. He is definitely the only presidential candidate talking seriously about fighting climate change with giant space mirrors….
Greg Hullender opines, “In point of fact, his platform
is pretty long. I’m not so sure it’s a good candidate for Best Related Work,
although it does have its moments.” – “Yang 2020 – Our Policies”
– “And how can you not like a guy whose response to pink MAGA caps is blue MATH
(8) A NICK LARTER UPDATE: Nick Larter, quoted in yesterday’s
Scroll as opposed
to a U.S Worldcon (immigration policies, difficulties), has been getting a crash
course in site selection rules and today added this statement to his post:
Yesterday I sent an email to the address provided for the Dublin Worldcon Business Meeting, enquiring how I should proceed. I have so far heard nothing back. But others have kindly informed me online that the Business Meeting has no control over the voting process. I have now looked at the relevant ballot paper. It seems that if a majority of voters select the None of the Above option for the 2021 Worldcon location, then the Business Meeting is supposed to decide where it should be located. On this basis, I’ll be voting None of the Above in Dublin.
(9) JACOB OBIT. Charlee Jacob (1952-2019) died July
14. The native Texan specializing in horror fiction,
dark fantasy, and poetry won the Bram
Stoker Award twice. Her novel Dread in the Beast
tied for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel of 2005, and her poetry
collection Sineater won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Poetry Collection
in 2005 as well. Her first novel This Symbiotic Fascination (Necro
Publications, 1997) was nominated for the International Horror Guild Award.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
July 16, 1952 — Zombies of the Stratosphere premiered.
July 16, 1969 — Apollo 11 launched.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born July 16, 1882 — Felix Locher. He is considered the oldest Star Trek actor of all time by birth year, appearing in “The Deadly Years” episode. 0ther genre appearances included Curse of the Faceless Man, The Twilight Zone, Frankenstein’s Daughter, The Munsters, House of the Damned, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. His entire acting career was from 1957 to 1969. (Died 1969.)
Born July 16, 1928 — Robert Sheckley. I knew that his short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel. I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) and Babylon 5: A Call to Arms being my favorite works by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the Kindle store but not in the iBook store. H’h. (Died 2005.)
Born July 16, 1929 — Sheri Tepper. I think I’m going to single out her Marianne Trilogy (Marianne, the Magus and the Manticore; Marianne, the Madam and the Momentary Gods; Marianne, the Matchbox and the Malachite Mouse) as her best work. Both the setting and the characters are unique, the story fascinating. (Died 2016.)
Born July 16, 1951 — Esther Friesner, 68. She’s won the Nebula Awards for Best Short Story, both “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”. I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She’s better better stocked in the Kindle store than in the iBooks Store.
Born July 16, 1956 — Jerry Doyle. Now this one was depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.)
Born July 16, 1963 — Phoebe Cates, 56. Ok, her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. It’s two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon.
Born July 16, 1967 — Will Ferrell, 52. His last film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favorite Award, Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike.
I write to you from the past—knowing you’re presently asleep while I’m awake, three hours’ worth of time zone between us—to talk about ideas. It’s tricky to know where to begin; when the most succinct description we can manage of our book clocks in at “epistolary spy vs. spy novella across time and space,” the ideas crowd and clutter.
But I think it all ultimately begins and ends with us. The two of us, becoming friends, and writing each other letters.
Do you remember when we first decided to write something together? I know the fact of it, but I don’t remember the hour, the words—only that we loved each other’s work, wanted to work together, wanted to set a sensible boundary of how and when and for how long to work together….
Thanks to the exploits of 19th-century archaeologists (many of them no better than Indiana Jones, digging for statues and jewelry while ignoring evidence of daily life), lost civilizations were common features of 19th-century adventure stories. The trope was imported wholesale into early SFF. Do you remember your first SFF lost civilization? I remember mine, which was thanks to Scholastic Books: the enthusiastically pulp-ish Stranger from the Depths, by Gerry Turner.
A mysterious relic reveals to humanity that there was an ancient civilization that arose before modern humans evolved in Africa. “Was”…or “is”? Ancient does not always mean vanished. These ancient aliens have, in fact, survived(!!!) in well-concealed refugia. Humans have now stumbled across them. Will humans survive the discovery?
It’s that rare time of year when the Life Plan presentation comes through the Los Angeles Habitable Zone! Tired of struggling in underground shelters and fleeing from mutated dumpster dogs? Life Plan is the answer! You can live out your dream life and you can experience true fulfillment, but only if you come to one of our five Life Plan Presentations this June. This is your last chance of 2068, so don’t miss out!
Life Plan is immersive satirical sci-fi — you’re live at a timeshare sales pitch from our dystopian future. Fulfillment is the offer. Salvation is the opportunity. Will you cash out? Will you buy in?
The play is written by Matthew Latkiewicz of You Can Do Better on truTV and former The Onion managing editor Brian Janosch. There are more details here.
The Parks and Recreation actor Alison Becker raves about the play on her Instagram wall, “I’ve seen A LOT of theater. And this was one of the best shows I’ve seen in my entire life. Wow. It’s like a weird mind fuck that stays in your head for weeks afterwards. It’s been extended for one night only (July 20th) so don’t say I didn’t tell you. I am NOT involved in this play. I am just telling you as a public service announcement — GO SEE THE BEST PIECE OF THEATER OF THE YEAR.”
You’ve worked as a video game journalist. How has gaming influenced your prose? What do you think writers could learn from successful video games?
I think analyzing video games actually helped me understand world-building a bit better. I try to treat every character, no matter how small their role, as an NPC (non-playable character). Every NPC in a video game should have a clear purpose, not just to propel the main characters on their quest, but to better flesh out the world around them. NPCs in games offer advice and opinions, sometimes drop hints that, if missed, can really screw over the player, or at least make their quest more difficult. In that way, they can make the story interactive. NPCs basically can reward a player for exploration. If you remove them, maybe the overall story won’t be affected, per se, but it will feel less rich.
CBS has so many Star Trek projects going on, it chose to dump them all into one panel! “Enter the Star Trek Universe” will share news about several Star Trek projects—including the animated show Lower Decks, from the guys behind Rick and Morty, and Sir Patrick Stewart’s highly anticipated return as Jean-Luc Picard. We can’t wait, especially for the dog.
When and where: Hall H on Saturday, July 20 at 11:30 a.m.
Who will be there:
Star Trek: Discovery—Sonequa Martin-Green, Tig Notaro, and executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Michelle Paradise, and Heather Kadin.
Star Trek: Lower Decks—co-creator Mike McMahan
Star Trek: Picard—Sir Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora, Isa Biones, Santiago Cabrera, Harry Treadaway, showrunner Michael Chabon, and executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, and Heather Kadin.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, rcade, Carl
Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Greg
Hullender, Olav Rokne, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title
credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]
The Helsinki Worldcon is now well underway, and the big topic of conversation is the attendance. On the face of it, this is a good thing. We all want Worldcon to grow. The largest number of attending members in history is still LA Con II in 1984 with 8365. LonCon 3 in 2014 had more members in total, but only 6946 attending. The last I heard Helinki was up to 6001. Some of those may be day members, who have to be counted somewhat differently from full attending members, but even so it is an impressive number. Helsinki certainly looks like being in the top 5 Worldcons by size.
Unfortunately, based on previous Worldcons outside of the US/UK axis, expected numbers for Helsinki were more like 3500. Messukeskus could handle that easily. It is more than big enough in terms of exhibit space for what we have. But the function space, where programming happens, is stretched to the limit.
There are many things that a Worldcon can do to cope with the unexpected, but building new program rooms is not one of them. Seeing how memberships were going, Helsinki did negotiate some space in the library across the road. It did not try to turn empty exhibit halls into function space because we all know how badly that went in Glasgow in 1995.
(3) MORE SPACE COMING. Nevertheless, Worldcon 75 chair Jukka Halme says:
We will have more function spaces on Thursday available, and even more on Friday and Saturday. These things take time, as some of these rooms need to be built in halls, since we already have all the available rooms in Kokoustamo at our disposal. I believe this will help out the congestions somewhat.
I believe that’s true. And simply because I happen to know this story I will add that before L.A.con III (1996), Bruce Pelz and I briefly discussed what our membership cutoff should be – a topic because the previous L.A. Worldcon (1984) set the all-time attendance record. We considered 16,000. But since our attending membership sales didn’t even crack 7,000, it never became an issue.
(5) YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. Doris V. Sutherland finds three points of interest in Pat Henry’s answer to Alison Littlewood, refusing to take her off the Dragon Awards ballot — “The Dragon Awards: A Peek Behind the Scenes”. The third is:
3: The Dragon Awards were originally conceived as a way of building a reading list for SF/F fans during the nominations phase, with the awards themselves being of secondary importance.
Now, the first two of these takeaways won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the proceedings, but the third point is significant.
For one, it explains something that had rather puzzled me about the Dragons: the shortness (less than one month) of the period between the ballot being announced and the voting process ending, leaving very little time for a typical reader to get stuck into a single novel category before voting. If fans are expected to continue using the ballot as a reading list after the awards are presented then this is a lot easier to swallow.
Here is a thing that sometimes happens to me and other authors who feature a not-insignificant footprint online or in the “industry,” as it were:
Some rando writer randos into my social media feed and tries to pick a fight. Or shits on fellow authors, or drums up some kind of fake-ass anti-me campaign or — you know, basically, the equivalent to reaching into the overfull diaper that sags around their hips and hurling a glob of whatever feces their body produces on any given day. The behavior of a shit-flinging gibbon.
Now, a shit-flinging gibbon hopes to accomplish attention for itself. It throws shit because it knows no other way to get that attention. The gibbon’s most valuable asset, ahem, is its foul colonic matter, so that’s the resource it has at hand.
Thing is, you’re not a shit-flinging gibbon.
You’re a writer.
Your most valuable asset is, ideally, your writing.
If it’s not, that’s a problem. A problem with you, to be clear, and not a problem with the rest of the world. It rests squarely upon your shoulders.
If your best way to get attention for yourself is to throw shit instead of write a damn good book, you are a troll, not a professional writer.
Five years of images from the front left hazard avoidance camera (Hazcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover were used to create this time-lapse movie. The inset map shows the rover’s location in Mars’ Gale Crater. Each image is labeled with the date it was taken, and its corresponding sol (Martian day), along with information about the rover’s location at the time.
(8) COLD EQUATION. Although sf is not really a predictive genre, that doesn’t stop people from enjoying the recognition when the things they’ve warned about in fiction happen in reality: the Antarctica Journal has the story — “Craig Russell, Canadian Novelist Predicts Arctic Event”.
How did Craig Russell respond when asked how he felt about his accurately future-predicting novel being in the news now?
“Some 40 years ago, as a student, I lived and worked at a Canadian Arctic weather station, 500 miles from the North Pole,” he added. “So I’ve remained interested in polar events, and was both fascinated and appalled by the Larsen A and B ice shelf collapses in 1995 and 2002.”
The long wait for the next Star Wars film can be painful to endure. We hang on any morsel we can get, any tie-in we can overreact to, and anything else that can get us geeking out. Then there is LEGO, who can help ease the painful wait by just getting us in a good mood. Take the new teaser posters for The Last Jedi, which were released in mid-July at the D23 Expo.
LEGO has now taken those same posters and LEGO-fied them, giving us six posters with LEGO mini-figure art that corresponds to those D23 posters. Again, repeating the crimson robe attire, echoing the red we saw on the first poster and also the ruby red mineral base of planet Crait. There’s no telling yet whether these posters are just part of Lego’s social media campaign or if these posters will be part of their gift with purchase program for VIP Lego Club members.
(10) TODAY’S DAY
Book Lovers Day
From the scent of a rare first edition book found in an old time book collection, to a crisp, fresh book at the local supermarket, the very sight of a book can bring back memories. Reading as a child, enjoying the short stories, the long books and the ability to lose yourself in a story so powerful that at the end your asking yourself where to get the next book in the series. This is for the reader in all of us, the celebration of Book Lovers Day!
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY
August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop premiered in the animated film Dizzy Dishes
First, I want to acknowledge the common protests. Jonesian archaeology looks a lot different from the modern discipline. If Jones wanted to use surviving traces of physical culture to assemble a picture of, say, precolonial Peruvian society, he’s definitely going about it the wrong way. Jones is a professional fossil even for the mid-30s—a relic of an older generation of Carters and Schliemans. Which, if you think about it, makes sense. By Raiders, he already has tenure, probably gained based on his field work in India (Subterranean Thuggee Lava Temples: An Analysis and Critical Perspective, William & Mary Press, 1935), and the board which granted him tenure were conservatives of his father’s generation, people who actually knew Carter and Schliemann—not to mention Jones, Sr. (I’ll set aside for the moment a discussion of cronyism and nepotism, phenomena utterly foreign to contemporary tenure review boards…)
Jones is the last great monster of the treasure-hunting age of archaeology. To judge him by modern standards is to indulge the same comforting temporal parochialism that leads us to dismiss post-Roman Europe as a “Dark Age.” Jones may be a lousy archaeologist as we understand the field today. But is he a lousy archaeologist in context?
If you’ve ever wondered what the children of Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, or Aquaman would look like, the time for wondering is over. Thanks to DC Comics, every fan gets to see the parentage and superpowers of the sons and daughters of the Justice League. The good news is that they’re every bit the heroes that their parents were, making up the Justice League of the future… the bad news is that they’ve traveled back in time to seek their parents’ help. Because as heroic as their superhero parents taught them to be, the future may be too lost for them to ever save.
If you haven’t watched this week’s Game Of Thrones, come back to this after you do because it contains MAJOR SPOILERS. You have been warned. All the rest of you probably agree that The Spoils of War was one of the most emotional episodes of the show to date. Judging from all the reactions online, at least the internet certainly thinks so.
Bored Panda has compiled a list of some of the funniest reactions to Game Of Thrones Episode 4 of Season 7, and they brilliantly capture the essence of the plot….
As any of the HBO series’s devoted fans can tell you, Game of Thrones is not a cheap production. In fact, with the budget for its most recent season coming in at more than $10 million per episode, it’s among the most expensive television shows in history. (If you have dragons in a scene, they need to destroy things . . . and that’s not cheap). But it’s not only the dragons and set designs that are costly; it’s also the costumes. There are upward of 100 people who work to ensure that each character is wearing an outfit that’s as realistic as possible. What might surprise some fans, however, is that IKEA rugs are often used as clothing.
“These capes are actually IKEA rugs,” Michele Clapton, an Emmy Award–winning designer, told an audience at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles last year. “We take anything we can,” Clapton added with a chuckle as she described the process that goes into designing medieval garb. “We cut and we shaved [the rugs] and then we added strong leather straps. . . . I want the audience to almost smell the costume.” The result is an IKEA-inspired cape that not only appears worn-in but also has the aesthetic of real medieval clothing. It remains unclear as to which IKEA rugs were used to dress the GoT characters. The next time you visit IKEA, see if you can envision Jon Snow marching into battle with a Höjerup or Alhede wrapped around his shoulders.
(19) POORFEADING. Another graduate of the Pixel Scroll Editing Academy & Grill:
About 110 million years ago in what’s now Alberta, Canada, a dinosaur resembling a 2,800-pound pineapple ended up dead in a river.
Today, that dinosaur is one of the best fossils of its kind ever found—and now, it has a name: Borealopelta markmitchelli, a plant-eating, armored dinosaur called a nodosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. After death, its carcass ended up back-first on the muddy floor of an ancient seaway, where its front half was preserved in 3-D with extraordinary detail.
Unearthed by accident in 2011 and unveiled at Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum in May, the fossil immediately offered the world an unprecedented glimpse into the anatomy and life of armored dinosaurs.
(21) THUMBS DOWN. Carl Slaughter says If you have read the Dark Tower series, you will probably share this reviewer’s shrill disapproval of the screen adaptation.
(22) MARJORIE PRIME. This doesn’t sound too jolly.
2017 Science-Fiction Drama starring Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins, Geena Davis, and Lois Smith
About the Marjorie Prime Movie
Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s Prime relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past. Marjorie Prime is an American science-fiction film written and directed by Michael Almereyda, based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Craig Russell, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]
(1) ANOTHER MASTERPIECE OF CONRUNNING. Mothership says Akiba Town, held this weekend in Singapore and which markets itself as a “Japanese culture event bringing in official anime merchandise along with fan artists and guest cosplayers” — was a mess: “S’pore-organised cosplay event riddled with multiple problems, slammed by cosplay community”. It changed venues a week before the event, allowed stolen artwork to be sold as official merchandise, oversold vendor space, and the list goes on….
If you guys are coming to AkibaTown, please use the Hall B entrance! We're straight ahead to the end from there ? pic.twitter.com/wIGAkci5MV
The spider, named Kumo, is one of two giant robots created by a street theater company of artists, technicians and performers based in Nantes, France. The company, La Machine, was in Ottawa July 27-30 as part of celebrations marking Canada’s 150th birthday.
The spectacle of robots, music and other special effects drew tens of thousands to Ottawa’s downtown.
The show opened July 27 in the evening, with Kumo “waking up” to organ music from inside the cathedral. As the spider, suspended from cranes, climbed off its perch between the towers, “snow” fell from above as part of the event’s special effects.
“I don’t understand how allowing a mechanical spider to stand on the cathedral is anything but disturbing, disappointing and even shameful,” wrote Diane Bartlett on the archbishop’s Facebook wall.
…Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said he was surprised by the negative reaction to an artistic initiative after critics called the spider’s placement “sacrilegious,” “demonic,” and “disrespectful” of a sacred space.
“My cathedral staff and I anticipated that some … might object, but thought it would be minimal, as nothing demeaning was intended in the spider being near the church,” said the archbishop in an email interview with Canadian Catholic News.
“I regret that we had not sufficiently understood that others would see this event so differently. I say to those who were shocked that I understand that this would have been upsetting for them and that I regret that a well-intentioned effort to cooperate in a celebration was anything but that for them.”
So in this languorous time, about the only consistent pasttime I can enjoy, aside from my records, is the ever-growing pile of stf (scientifiction, natch) magazines. One of the ones I look forward to is IF, which, if it is not always stellar, usually has a few items of interest. This month, the September 1962 issue has a lot of lousy stories, and editor Pohl cunningly placed the best one in front so as to dull the impact of the sub-par stuff that follows. But the last tale is a fine reprise of the first, quality-wise. See if you agree:
A famous author and actor, Leiber’s works often approach sublimity. This is one of them, combining both beautiful prose and cutting edge science fiction….
(6) A TO Z. When yesterday’s Scroll said a website had picked an sf author for every letter of the alphabet – all male — Karl-Johan Norén immediately set about balancing the books with his own alphabetical list of 26 influential sf authors – all women:
Authors who appeared at the YALC young adult literature convention over the weekend, including Alex Wheatle and Joanne Harris, have spoken out about what they feel was a lack of disabled facilities at the event. Their complaints centre on the sequestering of one of two disabled toilets for the use of celebrities attending the associated Comicon festival on a lower floor.
Organisers of the event, tied to the London Film and Comic Convention (Comicon) at Olympia in London, were accused by one visitor of “ablism” after wheelchair users ended up squeezing into busy lifts and negotiating crowds to reach accessible toilets on the Comicon floor.
Actor and playwright Athena Stevens, who has cerebral palsy, described organiser Showmasters’ decision to rope off one of the facilities for famous figures attending Comicon – including Benedict Cumberbatch – as “ablist”….
Disabled charity Scope said that defining “reasonable” provision of toilet facilities was a grey area under the Disability Discrimination Act, but it did seem that Showmasters had shown a disregard for their disabled attendees over access to them.
Showmasters, however, denied claims that accessible facilities were unavailable on the same floor as the literary festival, which attracted 40,000 visitors, but acknowledged problems on Saturday. “There were two disabled toilets on that floor, and one was behind the green room wall,” he said. Overcrowding at lunchtime on Saturday had meant that wheelchair users were forced to use facilities on another floor, a spokesman conceded, but not for the whole weekend. Showrunners will consult disabled people to ensure there was no repetition of the problem, he added.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
August 6, 1996— A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is released.
August 6, 2003 — Asteroids renamed to honor final Shuttle Columbia crew
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS
Born August 6, 1934 — Piers Anthony
Born August 6, 1970 – Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan
With more than two months to go before Philip Pullman’s long-awaited new novel from the world of His Dark Materials is published, pre-orders have sent La Belle Sauvage flying up bestseller lists. But with booksellers already slashing the cover price in half, the award-winning author has spoken out about how cheap books devalue the experience of reading, and called for an end to the “pernicious” doctrine of “market fundamentalism” if literary culture is to survive.
“I don’t like it when I see my books sold cheaply,” Pullman said. “But I’d like to think I’m speaking on behalf of all authors who are caught in this trap. It’s easy to think that readers gain a great deal by being able to buy books cheaply. But if a price is unrealistically cheap, it can damage the author’s reputation (or brand, as we say now), and lead to the impression that books are a cheap commodity and reading is an experience that’s not worth very much.”
A pair of vehicles are operating on a route through the city as part of the Baltic state’s presidency of the European Union, and have so far managed not to collide with any other road users, national broadcaster ERR reports.
But there have been a number of near misses since the launch on Saturday, ERR says. An eyewitness reports that one of the buses failed to give way to a police car with its lights flashing on Monday; while an ERR photographer saw a bus ignore a red light at a pedestrian crossing, ploughing on regardless of the “surprise” it had provoked.
Despite no-one driving, local traffic law means that there still has to be a responsible person on board, meaning that all passengers are greeted by a host. They’ve been tasked with explaining the technology to passengers new to the world of autonomous vehicles, ERR says.
7) So don’t quit your damned day job. Seriously. Do. Not. Quit. Your. Day. Job. It sucks trying to write full-time and work full-time. It sucks more not paying bills and being forced out of your house or your apartment. It sucks even more depending on the good will of your relatives, or your church, or government programs. If I had $10 for every embarrassed pauper author who proudly proclaimed, “I am a full-time writer, so fuck you,” and then (s)he went back to begging for lunch money, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Starving artistry is not a holy calling. Really, it’s not. I know I am gonna get burned at the stake for saying it. But seriously, do not check out of the “mundane” work force. Not unless you’ve got a metric ton of dough in the bank, or you’ve got a spouse who eagerly volunteers to carry the mundane load — while you labor at the desk in the attic. But if you’ve got responsibilities to meet, and mouths to feed, please, meet them and feed them. As Steven Barnes said at Norwescon ’07, suffering for your art may be noble, but making your family suffer for your art, just means you’re an asshole.
(13) INHUMANS. In this“Marvel’s Inhumans” clip, Maximus and Medusa face off.
(14) YOUTUBE ARCHEOLOGY. Today I discovered there’s a whole subgenre of YouTube videos which take the musical intros to famous TV series and swap in visuals from Star Trek. I admire the effort, although they’re rarely funny. I found this one from 2008 to be somewhat amusing — it starts with the advantage that the original A-Team intro included a lot of self-referential humor.
[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman. John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
Max Gladstone and Choice of Games have teamed up with the 2017 Hugo Awards to offer voters the unique opportunity to play two interactive adventure games based on the Best Series Finalist The Craft Sequence.
Voters can follow their personalized Hugo voting link to sign in, read the instructions, then enter their name at the bottom of the page. The page will then load their voting ballot and the links to the Hugo Voters Packet for each category; go to the Best Series section of the ballot and click on the “Get Steam Token for The Craft Sequence games” link. This will submit a request to Choice of Games, who will send a token to the voter which can be used to access the full games for free via the Steam platform (this is a free software download; see the linked page for system hardware and OS requirements).
The first 2 chapters of both of these interactive games are available to play online for free at the Choice of Games website:
L to R: Joel Derfner, Michael Swanwick, Max Gladstone, Matthew Cody, Lindsay Smith, Ellen Kushner, Amy Goldschlager.
By Mark L. Blackman: On the spring evening of Tuesday, May 2, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, in a special event, showcased Serial Box, a publisher of serialized fiction in text and audio delivered in weekly episodes; it currently runs five ongoing series. In this innovative – or perhaps retrograde – publishing platform, as with television, the serials are collaboratively written by author teams. Representing four of the serials, and reading from their projects, were authors Michael Swanwick, Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Matthew Cody, and Joel Derfner. (Ellen Kushner participated in the events, though did not read.) The stories were as diverse as the “writers rooms,” touching upon Urban Fantasy, Mannerpunk, Magical Espionage, and Young Adult Science Fiction.
Welcoming the audience to the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons in transit-accessible Brooklyn, executive curator Jim Freund, host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, shared the sad news of the death of Ama Patterson, who had been an integral part of Andrea Hairston’s performance at the Series. He thanked members of his own team, hinted at a possible special event later in the month, and announced that the 26th Season would likely close on Tuesday, June 6 with readings by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly. He then turned the stage over to the evening’s guest host/guest curator (and curator emerita) Amy Goldschlager.
Amy Goldschlager, an editor, proofreader and book/audiobook reviewer, related that serialized fiction began in the 19th century (notably with Dickens), and shared worlds with Thieves World and Wild Cards; Serial Box, she saw as “a wonderful confluence of it all.” With that, she introduced the first reader of the night, Joel Derfner, representing the Mannerpunk Tremontaine.
Joel Derfner is the author of Gay Haiku, Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Ended Up Happening Instead, and Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family. (Indeed, he does live, “alas, in Brooklyn, along with his husband and their small, fluffy dog.” He never did explain that “alas,” however.) His selection, from the prequel to – set 15 years before – Swordspoint, and preceding the writing of On the Causes of Nature (which figures in that novel), was characterized by Goldschlager as a “delightfully snarky bit of foreshadowing,” and contained many double entendres – intentional and not – about sausages. (His sex scenes, he said, were too long.)
Next to read was Lindsay Smith, who offered a scene from the “urban fantasy Cold War thriller” (Goldschlager) The Witch Who Came in From the Cold. There are, Smith explained, two factions of witches, the Fire and the Ice (so “the Cold” is not just the Cold War), fighting a war (here in 1970s Prague) alongside the one with American, British and Soviet spies.
Like Smith, Matthew Cody is a YA author; his published works include the award-winning Powerless and the Supers of Noble’s Green series, the Robin Hood re-imagining Will in Scarlet, and his current series The Secrets of the Pied Piper. His Serial Box series, ReMade, is about resurrected teens who are kidnapped and sent to the future; the action takes place in the future and in flashbacks (the present), and the scene that he chose was one of the latter. The boy, Holden (yes, named after you-know-who), who played a fairy (the only boy one) with no lines in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, nervously offers a ride to the cast party to its star (Titania), which does not end as he might have hoped.
During the intermission, a raffle drawing was held for donors in the audience, and two won a season of the Serial Box serial of their choice.
Max Gladstone, co-creator of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold and creator of Bookburners, describes himself as having “been thrown from a horse in Mongolia, drunk almond milk with monks on Wudang Shan, and wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat.” He is also the author of the Craft Sequence of books about undead gods and skeletal law wizards, Full Fathom Five, Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Last First Snow., and the forthcoming Ruin of Angels (which doesn’t have a number in the title!). Bookburners is, he explained, a “supernatural procedural” about secret agents from the Vatican who pursue demons and black magic. For his reading, he offered the audience a choice between the first season and a preview of the third, which is launching in June, and the latter won out (the vote was not “rigged”). (What happened in Belfast?)
Back on stage, Goldschlager said that she and Freund had asserted that there can’t be a NYRSF Readings season without a reading by Michael Swanwick, and he writes for Serial Box. Swanwick has written nine novels – the latest of which is Chasing the Phoenix – 150 short stories, and countless flash fictions, and has received the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy and Hugo Awards. He returned us to The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, prefacing his reading by noting that, as if there aren’t already too many characters in it, he had brought in two more, the Russian general Bitovsky and the Norwegian Magnus. (They must be spies – they’re meeting in “a spy bar.”)
There was a recess as the stage was reset with all of the readers – joined by Kushner – for an interview by Goldschlager. She opened by asking about the process of collaboration, which Gladstone called “a Frankenstein process.” There are a lot of story breakdowns. (As on tv, the editor/publisher equivalent is a “showrunner.”) Smith said that Witch is “more puzzle-piecey,” with people gravitating toward their own characters. Derfner disagreed, and jokingly called her a liar. There are a lot of personal meetings over Tremontaine. Gladstone noted his writers retreats. What struck him, said Swanwick, was how many times a story goes through the editorial process, somewhere between six and 123 (he cited a debate over whether it’s duct tape or duck tape – as in a film or tv show, there has to be consistency, or continuity). There is a “house voice.” Derfner said that he liked “having structure, and not having to make things up.” In Season 1, he said, he had trouble getting Diane’s (the Duchess Tremontaine) voice right and asked Kushner to revise him. She said that she was doing Joel doing herself; the process was “metaphysical” (I offered the word). They had to invent a new way of doing a narrative.
Cody said with his background in theater (he holds a Master’s Degree in Theater, with a focus on Shakespeare), he enjoyed the collaborative process. People would fight for their idea, but only up to a point. Alluding to ReMade, Goldschlager noted that we figure things out (that they’re in the future) before the characters do, and wondered about how “genre-savvy” the readers are, particularly in YA. Whatever the genre, replied Cody, soap opera is the “underpinning” of YA. Finally, she asked Gladstone if The Witch Who Came in From the Cold and Bookburners take place in the same universe. “Stay tuned,” he intoned, providing a perfect conclusion to the interviews.
In the Q&A that followed, an audience member asked how they select people to be “in their zone.” Gladstone looks for writers “who are going to jump on and run with it” and had a “willingness to speak the same language.” Kushner said that she had it easier, had the advantage of everyone being a Swordspoint fan, knowing and loving the Riverside books, and knowing that they can “play well with others.” The writers, she continued, “have to be flexible, open to their ideas being changed.” There are gay men in the story, and so she has “an actual gay man” writing episodes. His theatrical background also helps. (Derfner has, as his biography states, composed the score to musicals that “have played in New York, London, and various cities in between [going counterclockwise].”) Her Tremontaine team, she observed, was “queer or writers of color, or both.”
The next questioner asked if the long form was easier to play with than a shorter form. Gladstone said that it made it easier to “compartmentalize.” Smith said that they have to create an “atmosphere;” she can tell which writer wrote which episode, yet the story unifies and flows. The final questioner asked about how much work goes into the “Series Bible” (again, a tv term). Cody said that it gave “everyone a level playing field,” but, as Gladstone agreed, it changed quickly and almost immediately as everyone gave input.
The customary Jenna Felice Freebie Table returned and there were copies of Tremontaine offered for sale. The audience, which approached 70, included Melissa C. Beckman (the Readings’ “official photographer”), Richard Bowes, Rob Cameron, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (the House Manager and a Nebula Award nominee), John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Marianne Porter, James Ryan, Terence Taylor (Tech Director), Paul Witcover, and Serial Box co-founders Molly Barton and Julian Yap. Throughout the course of the evening and afterward, members of the audience availed themselves of the Café’s fare.