(1) COSMIC RAY. The Waukegan Public Library is taking submissions to its Cosmic Bradbury Writing Contest through January 29. Complete guidelines at the link. The winning submission will be awarded a $50 Amazon gift card and will be formally recognized on the library website.
…Venture into the deep expanses of space and the planets it contains. Show off your imagination and creativity by writing an original short story with the theme of space and space travel.
Does your universe have alien life forms or is it slowly being colonized by a vastly expanding human race? If you impress the judges and make Ray Bradbury proud, you will be beamed a $50 Amazon gift card!
Submission Deadline is January 29, 2021. For writers 14 years and older. Submissions limited to 5 pages (single-spaced, 12-point font).
(2) ANOTHER AGE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF reaches the end of its run through Journey Press’ Rediscovery anthology with Pauline Ashwell’s “Unwillingly to School.”
…Ashwell is an author whose work I have read before Rediscovery Vol 1. Less than entirely usefully, the sole work of hers I have read was 1992’s Unwillingly to Earth, which collects the Lizzie Lee stories, of which Unwilling to School is the first. I do not, therefore, have much sense of her skills outside this particular series. Unwillingly to Earth struck me a bit old-fashioned in 1992. Since the first instalment was written in 1958, that’s not terribly surprising.
Still, readers nominated Ashwell’s fiction enough to nominate her for the ?“Best New Author” Hugo. Twice. Not only that but twice in the same year, courtesy of a pen-name and the difficulty fans had discovering that Pauline Ashwell and Paul Ash were the same person. Will my Young People think as highly of her story? Let’s find out.
(3) MAKING CHANGE. Sarah Gailey talks about worldbuilding – building the one we’re in — at Here’s the Thing. “Building Beyond”.
Humans are built to imagine. That, to me, is one of our best qualities: the ability to hypothesize, to wonder, to create whole universes out of nothing at all. Whether or not you think of yourself as a writer, you can generate a world with your mind. Isn’t that just fucking amazing?
Part of why I love this ability we all share is because it can be used to change the shape of reality. When we let ourselves imagine new worlds, we start to realize that the world we live in is just as mutable as the worlds we imagine. When we start to believe that change is possible at all, all the doors fly open, and we start to believe that we can make change happen.
I think we could all use some of that belief right now, in a world where things are different. In a world we can build, together….
(4) READ AGAIN. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar signal boost several authors whose novels deserve a new look in “Let’s talk about fantasy and science fiction books that have fallen off the radar” at the Washington Post.
…Tanith Lee was a literary great: She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for a novel. I loved her Secret Books of Paradys, a series of Gothic, interlinked stories set in an alternate Paris, but she worked in all kinds of modes. Alas, she eventually had trouble selling her work. Her titles came out from smaller and smaller presses and were difficult to find. Lee died in 2015 and recently DAW/Penguin began reissuing her catalogue. You can now find titles such as “The Birthgrave,” “Electric Forest” and “Sabella.”
(5) WORLDCON LAWSUIT UPDATE. Jon Del Arroz today reported he gave a deposition in his lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation.
In February 2019, the court tossed four of the five causes of action, the case continues on the fifth complaint, defamation. (Not libel.)
(6) STATE HAS EYE ON AMAZON. “Connecticut probes Amazon’s e-book business” according to The Hill.
Connecticut is probing Amazon’s e-book distribution for potential anticompetitive behavior, according to the state’s attorney general.
“Connecticut has an active and ongoing antitrust investigation into Amazon regarding potentially anticompetitive terms in their e-book distribution agreements with certain publishers,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) said in a statement.
Tong noted that Connecticut has previously taken action to protect competition in e-book sales.
When the Justice Department sued Apple in 2012 alleging it conspired with major publishers to raise the price of e-books, Connecticut was among states that filed their own lawsuit against Apple, The Wall Street Journal noted. The Journal was the first to report on Connecticut’s Amazon probe…
(7) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. In “Nine Great Science Fiction Thrillers” on CrimeReads, Nick Petrie recommends novels by Heinlein, Dick, and Leckie that are based on crimes.
The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch (2018)
The Gone World was recommended to me by my local indie bookseller and I was immediately smitten. The protagonist is Naval investigator Shannon Moss, who is chasing the killers of a Navy Seal’s family and trying to find his missing teenage daughter.
The wrinkle is here is a secret Navy program sending astronauts forward in time to solve the riddle of the impending end of the world that gets closer with each attempt to solve the problem. The storytelling is complex, lyrical, and metaphysical without sacrificing intensity—I could not turn the pages fast enough. Sweterlitsch is very, very good and I can’t wait for his next book.
(8) REACHING THE END OF THE UNIVERSE. The Horn Book has “Five questions for Megan Whalen Turner” who’s wrapping up a series.
Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (with that never-to-be-bettered twist at the end!) was published in 1996. Now, after six books set in that unforgettably detailed world, full of political machinations, double crosses, dubious motivations, and familial obligations, the series comes to a close with Return of the Thief (Greenwillow, 12 years and up).
1. You’ve spent almost twenty-five years in the universe of Attolia. What will you miss most about writing about it?
Megan Whalen Turner: This has been such a bewildering year, I’m not sure of my own feelings anymore, but I think the answer is…nothing? I know that other authors have gotten to the end of their long-running series and felt a sense of loss, but I don’t. Very much to the contrary. I feel like I hooked a whale twenty-five years ago, and after playing the line for so long, I’ve finally landed it — maybe because, for me, finishing this book doesn’t mean shutting the door on the whole world. There’s room left for more storytelling — if I ever want to go back and write about Sophos’s sisters and their mother, or to follow up any number of loose threads left to the imagination. It’s this one narrative arc that has finally reached its conclusion, and that’s just immensely satisfying.
(9) MARVEL PRIMER. Vanity Fair tutors readers in “WandaVision: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to the New Marvel Show”. Useful for people like me who mostly know about the kind of comics found on tables at the barber shop. (Need to know anything about Sgt. Rock?)
Who Is Wanda? Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, has a long history in Marvel comics. She officially joined the film franchise in 2015, with Avengers: Age of Ultron. As you may or may not recall, that movie was a Joss Whedon joint—so if you’re a fan of his non-Marvel work, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly, it may come as no surprise that his version of Wanda was an angsty, troubled, superpowered teen girl with a tragic backstory. Think of her as Buffy Summers meets River Tam meets Willow Rosenberg. She also sported an outrageous Eastern European accent, which the MCU, in its infinite wisdom, decided to randomly drop without ever really mentioning it again.
So yes: Wanda hails from a fictional Eastern European country called Sokovia. In much of her time in the comics she’s a mutant, like the X-Men (you know, Wolverine, etc?). But because Marvel Studios did not, at the time of her film debut, own the rights to the X-Men, the films instead called her—vaguely—a “miracle.” (More on that in a bit.) Wanda had a twin brother named Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who could run very fast—but died, tragically, in Ultron….
(10) SPREADING THE WORD. E. Everett Evans, for whom the Big Heart Award was originally named, was responsible for what may have been the first appearance of the word “fanzine” in a newspaper, when he was interviewed for this Battle Creek [Mich.] Enquirer article published on October 5, 1941 (p.26) about the “Galactic Roamers” organization. The word had been coined only a year earlier by Louis Russell Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine, Detours,
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.
- January 14, 1981 — Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Roger Ebert who despised it with all of his soul, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy 64% rating.
- January 14, 2007 — The animated Flatland film was released on DVD. It was directed by Ladd Ehlinger Jr., the animated feature was an adaptation of the Edwin A. Abbott novel, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. The screenplay was written by author Tom Whalen with music was composed by Mark Slater. It starred Chris Carter, Megan Colleen and Ladd Ehlinger Jr. It was well received by critics snd currently has a rating of seventy percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born January 14, 1915 – Lou Tabakow. Founding Secretary-Treasurer of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group, then its long-time head (“Dictator”). Co-founded Midwestcon, chaired many, also Octocon (the Ohio one, not e.g. the Irish one). Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon I, Dubuqon II, Rivercon V. Big Heart (our highest service award). At SunCon the 35th Worldcon entered the Masquerade (our costume competition) with Joan Bledig as “TAFF and DUFF, visitors from the planet FIAWOL”, winning Best Aliens and Best Presentation. Wrote “The Astonishing Adventures of Isaac Intrepid” stories with Mike Resnick; MR’s appreciation here. (Died 1981) [JH]
- Born January 14, 1921 – Ken Bulmer. First (honorary) President of British Fantasy Society. Guest of Honor at Eastercon 19, Novacon 3, SfanCon 5, Shoestringcon I, BECCON ’83, Cymrucon 1984. TAFF delegate. Fanzines e.g. Steam and the legendary Nirvana. A hundred novels, as many shorter stories; eighty “Kenneth Johns” science essays with John Newman; historical fiction. Edited Foundation and New Writings in SF. (Died 2005) [JH]
- Born January 14, 1921 – Don Ford. Chaired Cinvention the 7th Worldcon. Co-founded Midwestcon and chaired the first one. Collector. CFG long celebrated the Tabakow-Ford birthday. TAFF delegate; first U.S. TAFF Administrator. Ron Bennett’s appreciation here – note, Skyrack the RB fanzine is skyr ack the shire oak. (Died 1965) [JH]
- Born January 14, 1924 — Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series. (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.) (CE)
- Born January 14, 1931 – Joe Green, age 90; hello, Joe. Guest of Honor at Palm Beach Con, Necronomicon ’97. Phoenix Award. Opened his home to pilgrim fans watching the Apollo launches. Eight novels, five dozen shorter stories (two with Shelby Vick, two with daughter Rosy Lillian a second-generation fan, one in Last Dangerous Visions). Appreciation of Ray Lafferty in Feast of Laughter 4. [JH]
- Born January 14, 1948 — Carl Weathers, 73. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other SFF creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. (CE)
- Born January 14, 1949 — Lawrence Kasdan, 72. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE)
- Born January 14, 1950 – Arthur Byron Cover, age 71. Fifteen novels, a score of shorter stories including one for Wild Cards, one in LDV; also television. Long career with the Dangerous Visions bookshop in Los Angeles. Interviewed Dick, Ellison, Spinrad for Vertex. Essays, review, letters in Delap’s, NY Rev SF, Omni, SF Eye. [JH]
- Born January 14, 1962 — Jemma Redgrave, 59. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions. (CE)
- Born January 14, 1964 — Mark Addy, 57. He’s got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost, followed by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Games of Thrones, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. (CE)
- Born January 14, 1967 — Emily Watson, 54. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow is in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She appeared apparently in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. (CE)
- Born January 14, 1973 – Jessica Andersen, Ph.D., age 48. A dozen novels for us, twoscore all told. Landscaper, horse trainer. Has read a score of books by L. McMaster Bujold. [JH]
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- xkcd has rules for living in a 1/10,000th scale world. Very helpful for people who are taller than Godzilla.
(14) TINTIN ON THE BLOCK. If the late Fred Patten had a few million Euros to spare he’d have bought this. “Tintin cover art sells for record breaking €3.2m” – The Guardian tells why it went for so much.
A rejected Tintin cover illustrated by Hergé that was gifted to a child and kept in a drawer for decades has set a new world record as the most expensive comic book artwork, selling at auction for €3.2m (£2.8m) on Thursday.
Le Lotus Bleu was created in 1936 by the Belgian artist, born Georges Remi, using Indian ink, gouache and watercolour. It had been intended for the eponymous cover of his fifth Tintin title, which sees the boy reporter head to China in order to dismantle an opium trafficking ring.
Hergé was told the painting would be too expensive to mass produce because it featured too many colours, so he painted another version with a black dragon and a blank red background, which became the cover. He then gave the first artwork to Jean-Paul Casterman, the seven-year-old son of his editor, Louis Casterman. It was folded in six and put in a drawer, where it stayed until 1981, when Jean-Paul asked Hergé to sign it….
(15) POWDER MAGE. [Item by Paul Weimer.] I’ve read and really enjoyed these novels, so I do hope this come to fruition. “Joseph Mallozzi To Adapt Fantasy Novel ‘Powder Mage’ As TV Series” – Deadline has the details.
…The drama series will take place in the Nine Nations, a fictional world in which magic collides with 18th century technology against the backdrop of political and social revolution. At the heart of the story are Powder Mages, unique individuals who gain magical abilities from common gunpowder.
The series is a fight for survival as mythical gods return to battle for a world that has changed in their absence. It will feature epic battles, gritty magic, heart-stopping duels, cunning political maneuvers, intrepid investigators, and shocking betrayals.
The Powder Mage trilogy was first published in 2013 and has sold over 700,000 copies. Mallozzi will exec produce with No Equal’s J.B. Sugar, Frantic’s Jamie Brown, and McClellan….
(16) DRILL ENDS. Part of NASA’s InSight lander was unable to perform its mission: “RIP: Mars digger bites the dust after 2 years on red planet”.
NASA declared the Mars digger dead Thursday after failing to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.
Scientists in Germany spent two years trying to get their heat probe, dubbed the mole, to drill into the Martian crust. But the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter) device that is part of NASA’s InSight lander couldn’t gain enough friction in the red dirt. It was supposed to bury 16 feet (5 meters) into Mars, but only drilled down a couple of feet (about a half meter).
Following one last unsuccessful attempt to hammer itself down over the weekend with 500 strokes, the team called it quits.
… The mole’s design was based on Martian soil examined by previous spacecraft. That turned out nothing like the clumpy dirt encountered this time.
InSight’s French seismometer, meanwhile, has recorded nearly 500 Marsquakes, while the lander’s weather station is providing daily reports. On Tuesday, the high was 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 degrees Celsius) and the low was minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 49 degrees Celsius) at Mars’ Elysium Planitia, an equatorial plain.
The lander recently was granted a two-year extension for scientific work, now lasting until the end of 2022.
(17) NUMBER NINE. Running online from February 13-18, the “I Heart Pluto Festival 2021 – Celebrating the 91st anniversary of Pluto’s discovery” is organized by the Home of Pluto, Lowell Observatory.
The I Heart Pluto Festival is going virtual! Show your love for our frosty ninth planet that was discovered in cold and snowy Flagstaff, Arizona by Clyde Tombaugh 91 years ago on February 18, 1930.
(18) THE NEW NUMBER ONE. In “Video games have replaced music as the most important aspect of youth culture” at The Guardian, Mike Monahan argues that video games are as central to the lives of today’s teenagers as music was to earlier generations.
It would be incorrect to say video games went mainstream in 2020. They’ve been mainstream for decades. But their place in pop culture feels far more central – to gamers and non-gamers alike – than ever before. In part, this is due to desperate marketers hunting for eyeballs in a Covid landscape of cancelled events. Coachella wasn’t happening, but Animal Crossing was open was for business. Politicians eager to “Rock the Vote” looked to video games to reach young voters. (See: Joe and Kamala’s virtual HQ and AOC streaming herself playing Among Us.) The time-honored tradition of older politicians trying to seem young and hip at a music venue has been replaced by older politicians trying to seem young and hip playing a video game. Yes, quarantine was part of this. But, like so many trends during the pandemic, Covid didn’t spark this particular trajectory so much as intensify it. Long before the lockdowns, video games had triumphed as the most popular form of entertainment among young people.
(19) STEP IN TIME. Dick Van Dyke is one of the “2021 Kennedy Center Honorees” – NPR has the story.
…Master of pratfalls, goofy facial expressions and other forms of physical humor, 95 year old Dick Van Dyke danced on rooftops in Mary Poppins, tripped over the ottoman on The Dick Van Dyke Show and wise-cracked with his fellow security guards in the Night At the Museum movies “with a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, says Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter. To join the “illustrious group” of just over 200 artists who’ve received Kennedy Center Honors, says Van Dyke in a statement, “is the thrill of my life.”
(20) BIT OF A MYSTERY. Keith Thompson, a longtime 770 subscriber, says he got a strange result when he searched for Chuck Tingle’s new book.
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In his latest appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Neil Gaiman explained —
that a previous appearance’s aphorism that “Writers need to find their way to boredom to inspire creativity,” only applies if you’re not actively terrified at the same time. Calling living under stifling COVID precautions like “being locked in the cellar with a bomb—and several poisonous snakes,” Gaiman said that he’d been talking more about being stuck on the tube when the world isn’t embroiled in self-devouring madness so that your creative mind can wander, happily untroubled that it might be killed at any moment.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Dann, Paul Weimer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]