Pixel Scroll 7/10/18 A Tick In The Box Might Be Quite Pixellental But Comments Are A Scroll’s Best File

(1) SEUSS STRIKES OUT. The Seuss estate just lost its lawsuit against another parody, a play called “Who’s Holiday!” which sounds a lot darker than The Places You’ll Boldly Go. Kevin Underhill of Lowering the Bar has the story: “Second Circuit: Lewd “Grinch” Parody Doesn’t Infringe”.

The Second Circuit held on Friday that what Reuters called a “lewd and profane” stage version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” did not infringe on the original, affirming the district court’s decision in favor of playwright Matthew Lombardo and against Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

I was not previously aware of this work, but Reuters’ summary makes it clear that it departs in some significant ways from the Dr. Seuss classic:

The dispute began when Lombardo in 2016 was preparing to stage “Who’s Holiday!” a one-woman play featuring an adult version of Cindy Lou Who, the endearing girl who in Seuss’ story stops the Grinch from ending Christmas.

In contrast, the Cindy Lou Who in “Who’s Holiday!” has become a 45-year-old woman who spends her days in a trailer home while battling alcohol and substance abuse, following a stint in prison for murdering her husband, the Grinch.

(2) @%!$$!! SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, cybercaffing from the borough library, found he was unable to access his second- (third? one hundred fiftieth?) favorite blog, File 770. He told me via email —

Your site has just been blocked by all London libraries and schools for access apparently due to profanity.

Attached screenshot.

(Other screen filters elsewhere may similarly act????)

Thought you’d want to know.

I used to be blocked by the Great Firewall of China, but not anymore. How is it they can read me in China and not in a London library?

P.S. As you may know there is a workaround but you need to know you’re blocked to implement, hence my tipping you the nod.  — Hope this makes sense.

Absolutely. Rest assured, I never slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.

(3) LEE DROPS SUIT. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed: “Stan Lee Drops $1B Lawsuit Against POW! Entertainment for “Stealing” His Name and Likeness”.

Stan Lee has dismissed his $1 billion lawsuit against POW! Entertainment for fraud and conversion, less than two months after the suit was filed in his name.

“The whole thing has been confusing to everyone, including myself and the fans, but I am now happy to be surrounded by those who want the best for me,” Lee said in a statement. “I am thrilled to put the lawsuit behind me, get back to business with my friends and colleagues at POW! and launch the next wave of amazing characters and stories!”

POW! CEO Shane Duffy added, “We are ecstatic that this ill-founded lawsuit has been dismissed and we look forward to working with Stan again to develop and produce the great projects that were put on hold when the lawsuit was filed. We recently got together with Stan to discuss our path forward and we and [parent company] Camsing are pleased with his overwhelmingly enthusiastic reaction.”

Lee filed the complaint in May in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming the company and two of its officers conspired to steal his identity, name and likeness in a “nefarious scheme” involving a “sham” sale to a Chinese company….

Variety adds:

…The move comes as turmoil continues in Lee’s personal life. The lawsuit was filed in May, when the 95-year-old Lee was allegedly under the sway of memorabilia collector Keya Morgan. Morgan is now barred from contacting Lee or coming within 100 yards of him, under a restraining order granted on Friday.

A joint statement was issued Monday by Lee and by POW! Entertainment, now owned by Hong Kong’s Camsing International, announcing that the suit had been dismissed….

(4) IMPULSE. The first 3 episodes of YouTube series Impulse are free.  You have to be a premium user to watch the whole series. (Note warning about depiction of sexual violence.)

(5) WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Zack Morrissette tweeted this mashup:

(6) STEADMAN ON AMERICA. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an interview with Ralph Steadman, who has an exhibition of his work (originally prepared and curated by Britain’s Cartoon Museum) now on exhibit at American University through August 1: “Ralph Steadman’s D.C. retrospective often shines a ‘gonzo’ light on America”.

SOMETIMES IT takes a prominent visiting writer or artist — from de Tocqueville to, say, Bono — to serve up a storyteller’s view of the United States that is one shot of awed wonder and two shots of bracing honesty. Along that continuum of colorful outsider perspectives sits Ralph Steadman, that savage ink-slinging satirist from Kent who depicts the land of the free as a minefield of bullies and blowhards and presidents, not necessarily in that order and not without some redundancy.

Steadman is the British/Welsh illustrator best known to the American masses as the journalistic “gonzo” accomplice of Hunter S. Thompson….

(7) DREAMTIME. “Thandie Newton Wants to See More Diversity in Sci-Fi” – a New York Times Magazine interview.

Your character Maeve in HBO’s “Westworld” is an android or “host” in a theme park. What do you think it means to have characters of color in genre work? A lot of what’s in the mainstream doesn’t have people of color. What irritates me is that science fiction is the place where you could have us. Science fiction is a projection of a time that hasn’t even happened, so if you don’t populate that place with people of different skin tones, shame on you. What it actually is is the reflection of what those makers do in their daily lives, how little they hang out with people of different skin tones. These are the key people and it’s like, “Oops-a-daisy, I don’t have a lot of black friends,” and that’s a reality.

Some of the stars in the new “Star Wars” films who are black and brown have found themselves being harassed on social media. Kelly Marie Tran, who was in last year’s “Star Wars” movie, just quit social media altogether because of harassment. Where there’s greatest progress, there’s greatest resistance. It’s a sign of getting somewhere if people get pissed about it….

(8) JAR (NOT JAR JAR). Chuck Wendig immediately complies with a fan’s request.

(9) EPISODE NINE EPISODE NINE EPISODE NINE. Not the Beatles — A.V. News found out the original Lando is making a comeback: “Billy Dee Williams to finally class up the Star Wars sequels in Episode IX”.

Now that Snoke is dead and the mystery of Rey’s parentage has been definitively addressed in a way that was clever and interesting (even if it didn’t live up to the internet’s boring fan theories), there’s only one lingering question that has plagued Star Wars fans: Where the hell has Lando Calrissian been since Return Of The Jedi? Well, it looks like we’re finally going to find out in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX, as The Hollywood Reporter’s sources have confirmed that Billy Dee Williams will be reprising his role as the galaxy’s smoothest gambler/smuggler/gas planet mayor in the next movie.

(10) NATIONAL MOURNING. Today’s Bristol Herald-Courier’s “News Quiz” features this question:

  1. U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes’ office confirmed that the White House initially declined to act on a request to lower the U.S. flag to half-staff after which event?
    1. The Fourth of July
    2. The deadly mass shooting at the Capital-Gazette office in Annapolis, Md.
    3. The death of science fiction writer Harlan Ellison
    4. The separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border

(11) FAREWELL, GARDNER. Michael Swanwick posted “Eight Pictures from the Gardner Dozois Memorial”: Christopher Casper, George R.R. Martin, Joe Haldeman, Samuel Delany, and others.

…All in all, a very sad event, laced with laughter.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 10, 1962 — Telstar satellite launched.

Trans-Atlantic television and other communications became a reality as the Telstar communications satellite was launched. A product of AT&T Bell Laboratories, the satellite was the first orbiting international communications satellite that sent information to tracking stations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Initial enthusiasm for making phone calls via the satellite waned after users realized there was a half-second delay as a result of the 25,000-mile transmission path.

  • July 10, 1981 Escape From New York premiered
  • July 10, 1981 Time Bandits debuted in the UK.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 10, 1926 – Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster). (1926-1993)
  • Born July 10, 1929 – George Clayton Johnson (1929-2015)
  • Born July 10 – Chiwetel Ejiofor, 42. Roles in Serenity, Doctor Strange, the animated Sherlock Gnomes and The Martian. Yes Sherlock Gnomes voicing Watson.
  • Born July 10 — Peter Serafinowicz, 47. Lead role in The Tick and in the alien abduction series People of Earth, the voice of The Fisher King in Doctor Who, and a role in The Guardians Of The Galaxy 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

“Peter Pan” author J.M. Barrie played on a cricket team with Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the “Sherlock Holmes” series; “Winnie-the-Pooh” author A.A. Milne; novelist H.G Wells; and P.G. Wodehouse, author of the Jeeves and Wooster series; among other writers. They called themselves the Allahakbarries, a play on the Arabic “Allahu akbar,” which the men misinterpreted to mean “Heaven help us” but actually means “God is great.” The team was reportedly terrible.

(16) MAN OF BRONZE. MeTV invites you to “Check out the new James T. Kirk statue in the Iowa town sanctioned as the captain’s birthplace”.

During Trekfest XXXIV in Riverside, Iowa, a new statue was unveiled that pays tribute to Captain James T. Kirk. The statue is a life-sized bronze model of the Star Trek icon, and its the product of artist Jurek Jakowicz of Sioux Falls, S.D., and a slew of Trek fans in the Iowa community and beyond.

The idea for the statue, though, was sparked by a former Riverside councilman Steve Miller, who had a bigger vision for his town: to make it the properly sanctioned future birthplace of Captain Kirk. His efforts began in 1985 when he got in touch with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, to ask if he would sign off on Riverside as Kirk’s official hometown. Roddenberry called the idea “enterprising” and gave Miller the OK.

KCII radio covered the dedication on July 4.

Thirty-four years later Miller helped unveil the lifesize bronze statue of Kirk at this year’s Trekfest. At the unveiling Miller shared about his journey making Riverside the future birthplace of Kirk and getting a statue made, “The statue, like I said, has been a goal for years. I had two goals, get a statue of William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and to keep Paramount Studios from suing me, and so far we’ve succeeded in both of those!”

(17) SPINNING SILVER. The Book Smugglers’ Thea James and Ana Grilo do a “Joint Review: SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik”.

Thea says:

…This is a nuanced, intricate narrative that plays with the most powerful fairy tale tropes, written in a grace that Naomi Novik alone can achieve. There are patterns throughout the story, three daughters, three wives, three lives intertwined by fate and determination to rise above the “destiny” carved out for each of them by men in their lives. I love that our perception of these characters–and the men around them–also changes over the course of the story. There are monsters, to be sure–Wanda’s father for one, and the fire demon within Tsar Mirnatius, for another–but what I love so much about this story is how everyone is more than what they initially seem. Even the cruelest winter king is given depth and humility, if not humanity, as the novel unfolds….

Ana says:

…For us as readers, we can only see what they see, and I was flabbergasted at how the author was able to twists their stories, the stories of the men around them, and myself around her little finger. The journey was excellent – in the way that the real story slowly unveiled itself in minutia, in gestures, in the things hidden in silence….

(18) THE LARD BE WITH YOU. Lissa Townsend Rodgers of Extra Crispy confesses: “I Made the Strangest Recipe in Vincent Price’s Cookbook”.

Published in 1971, Cooking Price-Wise contains wisdom like, “In the thirteenth century cheese was used as a substitute for cement in England, when the cheese got stale, that is. I don’t advocate keeping your cheese that long just to find out if it works.” Chapters on bacon, potatoes, and fish contain recipes that seemed exotic at the time. “People always seem afraid of food from other countries,” Price writes. He attempts to shake them out of their comfort zone with Fish Fillets Nord Zee, Moroccan Tajine [sic], and Biffes de Lomo Rellenos.

As I was scanning Cooking Price-Wise for a recipe to make, I saw two magic words—words that have been in many of my favorite dishes, but have never been put together before. I’m talking about bacon and mousse. Here is Vincent price’s recipe for bacon mousse….

(19) CRIMES AGAINST THE OZONE. The mystery release of ozone-layer-depleting chemicals reported on in File 770 earlier (see the 2nd half of item 11 here) has apparently been tracked down. The NGO Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) is reporting that the banned chemical CFC-11 is being used as a “blowing agent” in the production of cheap insulation in China’s home construction industry. Quoting the BBC article “Ozone hole mystery: China insulating chemical said to be source of rise”

Researchers from the EIA, a green campaign group, contacted foam manufacturing factories in 10 different provinces across China. From their detailed discussions with executives in 18 companies, the investigators concluded that the chemical is used in the majority of the polyurethane insulation the firms produce.

One seller of CFC-11 estimated that 70% of China’s domestic sales used the illegal gas. The reason is quite simple – CFC-11 is better quality and much cheaper than the alternatives.

“We were absolutely gobsmacked to find that companies very openly confirmed using CFC-11 while acknowledging it was illegal,” Avipsa Mahapatra from EIA told BBC News.

“The fact that they were so blasé about it, the fact that they told us very openly how pervasive it is in the market, these were shocking findings for us.”

(20) ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS ONE. Adrian Tchaikovsky, 2016 Clarke Award winner, gives his rundown of this year’s finalists: “At the Eleventh Hour: The Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist 2018”. For example:

Dreams Before the Start of Time – Anne Charnock, 47North

Anne Charnock is having a good year, frankly, having already picked up a BSFA Award at Easter (and a good career, having been shortlisted for a Kitchie and a Phillip K Dick award previously). She’s a thought-provoking and insightful writer and Dreams is a very different sort of book to the others on the list. It’s a gentle look at three generations of several interlinked families over the next hundred years or so, and its focus is very much speculation about the family structure and child-bearing, how these things may change (entirely believably) in the near future, and what knock-on effects those changes could have….

(21) DITKO. NPR’s Glen Weldon pays tribute to the late comics genius in “Remembering Steve Ditko: Forget Kirby Dots, Let’s Talk Ditko Sparkles”.

First, let’s tick off those facets of his work that left such an impression on people.

First, his faces.

Or, technically, his fondness for their absence, in whole or in part.

Consider: Here was a guy who put his hero — and not just any hero, but freaking Spider-Man, whose whole deal is just how achingly, embarrassingly relatable, and friendly, and (not to put too fine a point on it) downright neighborhoody he is, in a full-face mask.

Let’s agree: That was a gutsy move. Sure, Batman had been around for decades, and his cowl covered something like 5/6ths of his big ol’ melon’s surface area, but Bruce’s chin and mouth were exposed, so at least you could see him grimace, or gasp, or smile (it was 1962, Batman still smiled back then). Comics are a visual medium — readers need to see the characters’ facial expressions to stay emotionally engaged.

But Ditko loved drawing inscrutable faces — masked, half-masked, or sunk in shadows….

(22) BREAKTHROUGH DELAYED. Yin Yijun analyzes “The Three-Book Problem: Why Chinese Sci-Fi Still Struggles” at Sixth Tone.

Liu Cixin’s epic trilogy was expected to take Chinese science fiction into a new era, but the genre is still far from its lofty ambitions.

…The editors and Liu opted to serialize “The Three-Body Problem” in Science Fiction World, which at the time had a 200,000 nationwide circulation. They were worried that Chinese readers wouldn’t be especially interested in sci-fi compared to other literature genres, but hoped that “The Three-Body Problem” could open up a new chapter for Chinese sci-fi.

And it did — for a time.

In 2015, the first installment of “The Three-Body Problem” trilogy won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel, triggering media coverage and large-scale public attention — including, famously, an endorsement by former U.S. President Barack Obama. It increased the profile of Chinese sci-fi both domestically and internationally, and raised the possibility that sci-fi could finally extend beyond the pages of novels. In 2014, after the English-language translation was published, Chinese movie production house Yoozoo Pictures announced that it would adapt the series into a six-part motion picture.

But the much-hyped movie never happened. Filming took place in the first half of 2015, and the first movie was scheduled to premiere in July 2016. Over the past three years, the schedule has been continuously pushed back, in part due to sky-high expectations for visual effects and an unexpected company restructure.

There’s been no news recent news about “The Three-Body Problem” movie, but after a report in March that Amazon’s on-demand service planned to create a television show of the series, Yoozoo reiterated that it was the franchise’s legal copyright holder for all types of adaption. At a group interview with Sixth Tone and other media outlets during the anniversary meeting, Liu — who is serving as the project’s chief consultant — directed all questions about the movies to Yoozoo. For now, “The Three-Body Problem” remains hamstrung by its lack of visual depictions; it can hardly monetize certain aspects of the stories like international franchise “Star Wars” has been able to do with lightsabers if there are no movie or game representations.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Vicki Rosenzweig, StephenfromOttawa, Jonathan Cowie, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Alan Baumler, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

More Gardner Dozois Tributes

Gardner Dozois in 2017. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Gardner Dozois died May 27, and Michael Swanwick’s “The Gardner Dozois You Didn’t Know You Knew” (linked yesterday) has gone viral in the sf community.

Many other friends, colleagues and admirers of Dozois are also mourning the famed sff editor and writer. Here are a few excerpts:

Pat Cadigan on Facebook.

You will read a whole lot of tributes to Gardner, lauding him as a person, an editor, and a writer, and even the most superlative won’t be superlative enough.

But Gardner Dozois and Susan Casper were more than that to me…they were family.

I’m not trying to claim I’m part of Gardner’s and Susan’s family. I’m saying they’re part of mine.

But, as Michael Swanwick has pointed out to me, we don’t get the people we love for free. The pain of losing them is the price we pay for the privilege of having them in our lives.

They’re worth it.

Walter Jon Williams: “The Passing of a Titan”.

In public, Gardner was a Personality.  Loud, lewd, and Rabelaisian, he was an effervescent source of fun and mischief.  I remember chatting with him in a crowded restaurant when the room suddenly went quiet, in one of those odd silences that can sometimes occur even in a busy room.  Gardner was the only person in the room who kept talking, and suddenly the entire room heard Gardner’s high tenor voice singing out the words “FEMALE . . . GENITAL . . . MUTILATION.”  

The silence went on for some time after that.

But if he were only the large-scale public personality, he wouldn’t have had the impact on the field that he did, and he wouldn’t have found and published the literate, sensitive stories for which his tenure at Asimov’s became known.  He wouldn’t have won the Hugo Award so many times, and there wouldn’t be so many very good authors who owe him a boost in their careers.

David Gerrold on Facebook:

Over the years, he established himself as one of the people who simply defined what science fiction could be — as a writer, an editor, and a reviewer. It was my privilege to present the Skylark award to him at a Boskone a few years ago — but because of his health issues, he wasn’t able to accept the trophy in person. I think I was as honored to present it to him as he was to receive it.

To put it simply, Gardner was one of the people whose respect I wanted to be worthy of. He edited the Year’s Best SF anthology for over three decades. But it wasn’t until number 23 (if I remember correctly) that he finally decided one of my stories should be included. (And then one more time, a couple years ago.) To make it into one of his anthologies had been on my bucket list. I am heartbroken that there will be no more Year’s Best with his name as editor.

Equally saddening, losing him as a reviewer. Gardner had an insightful eye — which is why I always turned to his reviews first in nearly every new issue of Locus. I think that’s one of the things I will miss the most — there will be no more reviews of short fiction by Gardner and Locus will be just a little less fun to read.

Alastair Reynolds, after recounting Dozois’ influence on his career, ends his  “Gardner Dozois” tribute —

I can’t say I knew him terrible well; we met on perhaps two of three occasions over the years during which he (and his late wife) were charming company, but I liked him very much and his passing will leave a considerable void in the SF community. I always let him know how much it meant to me that he picked up my stories, and I hope some of that got through to him – it really was sincerely meant. And – all too briefly – I ought to mention that he was also a fine and stylish writer, a very accomplished SF thinker who could easily have had a career just as a writer, but who directed most of his energies into editing instead, and thereby did the community a great favour. He was also a very readable diarist, and – although it’s been many years since I last encountered them – his travel writings were extremely enjoyable. He was a loud, colourful presence at SF conventions, but also a sensitive, cultured and knowledgeable man in private.

Lorena Haldeman on Facebook.

Some days you wake up and the daylight seems a little dimmer, your gravitational spin seems a little off; as if a star has gone out and the universe has to learn to adjust to new patterns.

I’ve always truly believed that the best way to keep people with us, in our hearts, when they have to leave the party, is to look for the qualities we so deeply admired in them and cultivate those in ourselves. May a part of me, going forward, always find mad humor in the angry darkness, keep the ability to be gentle in the tossing storm of life, and to be able to find the heart of the story by expertly cutting out the unnecessary.

Matthew Cheney shares bittersweet memories of growing up with Asimov’s – and growing apart, in “Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)”.

Dozois never showed interest in avant-garde fiction, at least to my knowledge, but in his early years at Asimov’s and in the late-’80s/early-’90s Year’s Bests he published quite a bit of work that pushed against various borders and walls, especially the expectations of genre readers about what SF could and, indeed, should be. His was a pluralistic, ecumenical, eclectic vision of the field, one gained from coming up as a writer himself in the years after the New Wave had shaken things up a bit. He loved a good space opera, but he was just as much a champion of “The Faithful Companion at Forty”, the sort of story that less open-minded readers said didn’t belong in a science fiction magazine.

Lavie Tidhar will miss him in a very practical way: “RIP Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)”.

What I can say about Gardner is that he meant a hell of a lot to me. He was my most strident champion in short fiction. He first contacted me about ten years ago, asking to reprint one of my stories in his seminal Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology series. Since then, he’s included me in every volume, sometimes doing me the honour of reprinting not one but two in the same volume. I only skipped one year – I got fed up with short fiction for some reason and published barely nothing, and it was the realisation that I missed a volume in Gardner’s anthology, I think, that made me realise how ridiculous I was being, so I started again.

…He’d asked me for a new one just 3 weeks ago. I was just about to start writing it… I don’t really know what happens now. He was an amazing editor, a defining force, and my knight in shining armour. He knew my work better than I did. There is no one else like him. The world of science fiction is poorer for not having him, but God damn it, I needed you, Gardner!

Jamie Todd Rubin shares memories of one of “The Nine Billion Names of Science Fiction”.

…I was present for an amazing “panel” discussion that included Gardner, and George R. R. Martin at Capclave back in 2013. It was standing-room only, and I stood near the back for two hours, laughing harder than I’d laughed in years. Gardner told stories from his days in the army, and the refrain across the convention the following day went something like: “IF YOU DO (X) YOU WILL DIE.” You had to be there.

…I have to remind myself that Gardner himself was a supernova. He was a nursery for new stars. And while his star may have winked out, there are thousands that he helped create that still shine brightly, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Alec Nevala-Lee was affected by “The Constant Gardner”.

Gardner and I never met, and we exchanged only a handful of emails over the last decade, but he profoundly affected my life on at least two occasions. The first was when I was twelve years old, and I received a copy of Asimov’s Science Fiction—which Gardner was editing at the time—for my birthday. As I’ve recounted here before, it was that present from my parents, given at exactly the right moment, that made me aware of short science fiction as a going concern, as embodied by its survival in the three print digests. My career ended up being more closely tied to Analog, but it was Asimov’s that set me on that path in the first place. Without that one issue, I don’t know if it would have occurred to me to write and submit short stories at all, and everything that followed would have been very different.

Lou Antonelli says “Farewell, Oh Great One!”

I will always be grateful to Gardner Dozois for encouraging me and giving me invaluable writing advice when I was just starting to write spec fic back in 2003 and 2004, and ultimately accepting my first pro sale, “A Rocket for the Republic”, which was published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in Sept. 2005.

That was the only story of mine he ever accepted, because it was the last he ever accepted before he retired in April 2004. I will always be proud of the fact that mine was the last story he bought before leaving Asimov’s after 19 years.

John Clute concludes his entry on “Dozois, Gardner”  at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction —

It may be that Dozois’s main contribution to sf – including a maturely realistic sense of the nature of the worlds he honoured both in his creative work and in his edited books – was technical: his remarkable capacity to select (and to edit) work that is both exciting to read and adult on reflection. But over and above that, his abiding contributions to the field seem from the first to have been fueled by his deep love for the field, not uncritical but unfaltering.

Richard Parks remembers hanging out on Delphi: “Gardner Dozois 1947-2018”.

I actually “met” Gardner online back in the early 1990’s, in the relatively early days of what was almost but not quite the internet. Before FB and Reddit there was Genie and Delphi, “bulletin board” sites where you logged in through an analog modem to argue and chat with friends. A lot of the sf/f field hung out on Genie, but on one night a week a smaller, very lucky group came together on the sf/f board on Delphi. Membership varied, but at one time or another there was Janet Kagan, Pat Cadigan, Lawrence Person, Jack L. Chalker, Eva Whitley, Mike Resnick, Susan Casper and yes, Gardner Dozois. And me. I wasn’t the only nobody there, of course, but on the other hand there weren’t any nobodies there. It was a friendly group and everyone felt welcome. I certainly did. At the time I had only sold one story, several years earlier, to Amazing SF, and while I was still working hard, I was beginning to think that was it. And even though talking business was generally frowned on, it was there that Gardner broke the news that he was taking a story of mine, “Laying the Stones,” for Asimov’s SF. Now imagine yourself drowning, not for a minute or two but for months, years, and somebody finally throws you a lifeline.

For me, that somebody was Gardner Dozois.

Gardner Dozois Remembered

Susan Casper and Gardner Dozois. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter. Casper and Dozois were married 47 years; she passed away in February 2017.

Gardner Dozois (1947-2018), one of the sf genre’s leading editors for over forty years, died May 27 “of an overwhelming systemic infection.”

As a well-known writer, and also the editor of Asimov’s and a popular series of best of the year anthologies, he received many honors and awards during his career. Dozois won 15 Best Professional Editor Hugos, and a 2014 World Fantasy Award as the co-editor (with George R.R. Martin) of the anthology Dangerous Women. He was the editor Guest of Honor at the Millennium Philcon, the 59th World Science Fiction Convention in 2001.

Before taking over the editor’s chair at Asimov’s he was an acclaimed fiction writer who received 11 Nebula nominations, winning twice – “The Peacemaker” (1984) and “Morning Child” (1985).

Dozois was inducted to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011.

Prozine editors who plan on being around for awhile don’t just pan for nuggets in the slushpile, they spend a lot of time turning the dross into gold. Gardner Dozois’ efforts along that line during his 20 years as editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction are represented in the 35 linear feet of letters and notebooks plus 35,000 e-mails that make up the archive of his correspondence and papers acquired by UC Riverside’s Eaton Collection in 2014.

Here are some of the tributes posted in the past 24 hours, and also some excerpts from my 1989 and 2001 Worldcon reports that give windows into his popularity and history.

Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick at the NYRSF Reading in October 2017. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Michael Swanwick introduces us to “The Gardner Dozois You Didn’t Know You Knew”:

Anybody who was ever praised by Gardner Dozois should know this: He meant it. Not only did he like you personally, but he loved your work.

The second part of that mattered more than the first. I remember once he told me he’d picked up a story by a notoriously unlikeable writer for the Year’s Best Science Fiction. “That’s interesting,” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied, grinning. “The little shit wrote a really good story.”

Gardner was himself an extremely fine writer. If you haven’t read “A Special Kind of Morning,” do yourself a favor and look it up. It’s the apotheosis of science fiction war stories. He almost entirely gave that up when he became an editor because editing uses the same inner resources that writing requires.

He knew this would happen when he first became editor of Asimov’s. But he felt it was a price worth paying because it enabled him to buy stories nobody else would. Some of them most readers now would be astonished to learn were ever deemed unpublishable. There were times when he risked losing his job to publish a story he admired.

He paid the price. He did it for the writers… and for the readers.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, pays it forward: “RIP Gardner Dozois, pioneering, genre-defining science fiction editor who helped launch my career”.

…long before he’d published my work, he’d nurtured my career, including my stories in the copious honorable mentions appendices to his longrunning, definitive Year’s Best Science Fiction anthologies, appending encouraging personal notes to the rejections I got from Asimov’s and, on a memorable occasion at Philcon, announcing during a panel that he viewed me as one of the best new writers in the field.

In a field where beginning writers are starved for attention, critical feedback and encouragement, Dozois stood out as an editor who never succumbed to the laziness of simply publishing works by known authors: he was an assiduous reader of the “slushpile” of unsolicited manuscript, which made him an encylopedic guide to emerging talents, long before people were publishable. Beginning writers, years before their first sales, often found themselves meeting Dozois at conferences, only to be treated to specific, encouraging words about the stories he’d rejected and their professional and artistic progress.

…Eight days ago, Dozois’ son Christopher Casper accepted the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Solstice Award for lifetime achievement on his father’s behalf. Dozois apparently told his son to say that the award belonged properly to the writers that Dozois had published. Thankfully, Christopher defied his father and used the opportunity to remind us of Dozois’ shyness and modesty.

When Philadelphia Magazine named him one of “Philadelphia’s 100 Smartest People,” he said, “If that’s true, then God help Philadelphia!” When he was placed in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, he returned from Seattle to report that they’d placed his name and image on a brick which went into the Hall of Fame Wall. “So now I’m really just another brick in the wall.” And when he couldn’t make it to Pittsburgh for the Nebula Awards Weekend, he told Christopher to just say that the award properly belonged to all the writers he’d published.

Rick Moen shared a memory:

The world is already a sadder and less merry place without Gardner Dozois. I will always cherish the Liar’s Panels he used to do at Worldcons, where he and other veteran pro editors would dispense deliberately terrible advice to authors trying to get published. (‘Send lots more dinosaur stories!’)

At the SFWA Blog: “In Memoriam – Gardner Dozois”.

SFWA President Cat Rambo remembers Dozois:

Gardner was always larger than life – a little loud, a little bawdy, and always the biggest presence in the room. But he also knew his stuff, backwards and forwards, and his mark on the genre is written in indelible ink. I’m so glad SFWA got a chance to honor him while he was still around to appreciate it — but I sure wish he’d had a lot more time in which to do so.

Ellen Datlow posted a great selection of Gardner Dozois “crazy faces” on Facebook.

From File 770’s 1989 Worldcon report: Dozois made a memorable entrance with the other Hugo nominees prior to the 1989 ceremony:

I got to the door and heard our processional music was “March of the Gladiators” from Spartacus or something comparable with brassy flourishes and rhythms suited to the stride of captured war elephants.

We walked circuitously through the auditorium like extras in a Hercules movie. Nominees in the professional categories marched at the end. Gardner Dozois basked in the applause, flashing a V-sign at the crowd like Winston Churchill on V-E Day.

The year Gardner Dozois was Worldcon guest of honor, File 770 covered his signature event in “Ben  Frankly Speaking: Millennium Philcon 2001 Worldcon Report”.

…Janice Gelb was irate that the true nature of the “Liars Club” panel had been blabbed by a participant and quoted in the daily newzine. David Hartwell had said, “Did you hear we’re roasting Gardner Dozois? Think he’ll be able to feed the whole crowd?” Everyone involved had been sworn to secrecy in an attempt to surprise Dozois.

The Liar’s Club: The popular panel truly lived up to its name this year. Pat Cadigan, Gardner Dozois, Janice Gelb and George R.R. Martin were on the dais at the beginning. Dozois got everyone’s attention with a drill sergeant’s yell, “Shut uuuupp!” Janice Gelb moderated, later saying she was mainly there to keep Gardner from taking over the microphone for a rebuttal once she revealed that the panel was actually “The Secret Roast of Gardner Dozois.”

Hearing that, Gardner shouted, “My pager went off – bye!” Janice merely explained, “We wanted to get a rubber mallet and hit him every time he interrupted.” Gardner sneered, “You think rubber would stop me?”

George R.R. Martin claimed to avoid duplication that they had simply divided up the Gardner stories. He’d been allowed to tell the story about Gardner’s knob – which George had never touched – and also about Gardner’s nose for stories. When George met Gardner for the first time, at Disclave in 1974, Gardner had a red jelly bean in his nose. George told him, “Most people put those in their mouths.” In reply, Gardner slapped his cheek and the jellybean flew into his hand. He said, “Here, go ahead.”

…A parade of others came up to testify about Dozois. Jay Haldeman recalled that around 1971 he, Dozois and others formed a loose collection of writers who met several times a year and workshopped short stories. Dozois would bring along 35,000-word story fragments. After Jay read about 20 pages he’d think, “Say, this is just great, but nothing has happened.” His brother, Joe Haldeman, wrote a 4-page scene of a former President watching the sun creep across his yard – “Gardner loved it, of course. It was just like his.” Many years later the finished story actually sold to Omni.

… Having just watched Gardner enjoy a ribald song about himself, it was easy to believe Connie Willis’ claim that Gardner is impossible to roast because he can’t be embarrassed. She gave further examples. A Worldcon  gave out a Hugo base that looked like a toilet seat with nuts and balls attached, which began to fall apart as soon as they were given out. When Connie asked Gardner how his Hugo was holding up, he answered, “My toilet seat’s fine, but my balls fell off.” Connie also described a scene from American Pie and promised, “That wouldn’t have embarrassed Gardner….”

Then Connie recalled a dinner group at a recent Worldcon held at a round table, inspiring people to give each other names of participants in the Algonquin Round Table. Connie reported that Gardner was Alexander Wolcott, “Because he’s so funny, and such a wonderful host.” Then, Connie launched into four or five sentences of effusive, frankly honest praise about Gardner’s human qualities. Gardner squirmed and blushed. Connie finished with a triumphal grin, “And now I’ve embarrassed you!”

…[Joe] Haldeman remembered an old Worldcon party. “Gardner invited me to a party back at his place. He stole a bottle of wine from the SFWA suite….” Gardner protested, “You were President!”

Haldeman ignored him and went on to talk about Dozois the editor. “John W. Campbell used to smoke unfiltered Camels in an ivory holder – the only vice that Gardner doesn’t have.” Haldeman complained that after he sent Gardner The Hemingway Hoax, Gardner “cut it to shreds so he could run it as a novella in Asimov’s. He did so much damage to it that it won both the Hugo and Nebula.”

After much more was said about Dozois, he was allowed his rebuttal. Gardner began by verifying how far he could fire a jellybean out of his nose. (Kathryn Daugherty happened to be carrying a bag of pineapple jellybeans which she donated for ammunition.) Then he told a long, risque anecdote about a closed party at the 1974 Worldcon, implicating George R.R. Martin, the Haldeman brothers and some others. Even back in the Seventies this stuff was pretty wild.

Something that struck me personally about this story was how it fit together with my memories of Norm Hollyn (then Hochberg) and Lou Stathis at the 1974 Worldcon taking me to look for some pros they’d met – Dozois being the only name I recognized at the time. What I remembered about that morning, including the hushed secrecy about someone having slept in the closet, fit perfectly with the story Gardner was telling at the end of the roast. Evidently, Norm, Lou and I had shown up the morning after all this had happened….

Pixel Scroll 5/27/18 Pixels Scroll Good, Like An E-fanzine Should

(1) WISCON 42 COC INCIDENT. Wiscon 42 announced on social media that action was taken in response to a Code of Conduct violation on a program item today. Their Twitter thread begins —

And they put up a full blog post: “Killable Bodies In SF Panel”

During the Killable Bodies In SFF panel at WisCon this morning (Sunday), a panelist engaged in Nazi and Confederate apologia and also appeared to posit that disabled or injured people sometimes “have to be sacrificed.”

They continued this behavior even after the audience and other panel members expressed the harm this was causing them.

WisCon rejects these ideas. They are in conflict with our Code of Conduct. The panelist in question will be banned and asked to immediately leave convention spaces.

The relevant passage from the Code of Conduct is here…

If you or anyone you know are in need of any support following this experience, please contact us. We will be working to find folks who can provide emotional support to you.

ETA: This particular individual has been banned for WisCon 42. The decision as to whether this ban will be extended in the future will be determined by our Anti Abuse Team post-con. Should you have information to contribute, you are welcome to email safety@wiscon.net.

Although some deductive guesses have been made about who the panelist was, confirmation has yet to be issued. The program schedule described the item and listed the following participants:

“The Desire for Killable Bodies In SFF”

In SFF with an action element there’s a desire for cool giant battle scenes, heroes who spin, twirl, slice off heads, and general melee violence. This is an old background trope: the killable mook, guard, or minion whose life can be taken in a cool or funny way is familiar from traditional action films. But many SFF stories take this trope further with a killable race or non-sentient army: the Orcs in Lord of the Rings, the Chitauri in Avengers, and the many robot armies that we see represented solely so that heroes can create cool violent carnage without having to answer difficult moral questions. What happens when SFF comes to rely on this trope? If we’re going to have violent action in SFF, is this better than the alternative? Is it ever not just super racist?

Panelists: M: Molly Aplet. Lisa C. Freitag, Nicasio Reed

“your friend sam” livetweeted the panel but did not name the speaker:

EDITOR’S REQUEST: Please do not add your speculation about the person’s identity in comments. I have already figured out who it probably was and could put that guess here — I’m waiting for a witness, or the con, to name the person.

(2) TROLL BRIDGE. Thanks to Signature for throwing a spotlight on this Pratchett-themed production: “Trailer Surfaces For Fan-Made Discworld Film”.

Inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, “Troll Bridge” isn’t like most other films – it’s spent over a decade in production, and is entirely fan-made. Such a project may sound like it’s cursed to remain in limbo forever, but the film now has a trailer and is being submitted to festivals around the world. Between this and the upcoming Good Omens adaptation, it appears 2019 may be Pratchett’s time to shine. In the meantime, “Troll Bridge” is available for pre-order thanks to crowdfunding – but a Blu-ray is going to set you back $85.

An old barbarian and his talking horse, embark on a suicidal quest to battle a bridge troll. 15 years in the making TROLL BRIDGE is an ambitious odyssey of work in bringing Terry Pratchett’s Discworld to cinematic life.

 

(3) DOZOIS OBIT. Gardner Dozois died May 27 reports Michael Swanwick:

It is my sad duty to note the passing of Gardner Dozois today, of an overwhelming systemic infection, at Pennsylvania Hospital. Gardner was the best of friends, the best of editors, and the best of writers. And now he’s gone.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born May 27, 1911 – Vincent Price
  • Born May 27, 1922 – Christopher Lee
  • Born May 27, 1934  — Harlan  Ellison

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian discovered a Star Wars fashion secret and an awful pun in Brevity.

(6) THE LATE ALAN BEAN. Astronaut Alan Bean’s death was reported in yesterday’s Scroll. Paul McAuley retweeted a great story about him today — the thread starts here (40 tweets long).

(7) ORIGINAL LANDO. MovieWeb asks “Billy Dee Williams in Training to Return as Lando in Star Wars 9?”

The older Lando Calrissian could be making a return to the big screen for Star Wars 9. 81-year old actor Billy Dee Williams is rumored to be preparing to reprise his role as the ever charming Calrissian after it was revealed that he has been training 3 days a week. Lando has been in the news quite a bit lately due to the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story and Donald Glover’s portrayal of the younger version of the character.

MegaCon Orlando took to social media to reveal that Billy Dee Williams is on a completely new diet for his return as Lando Calrissian. While this news on its own doesn’t really seem like much, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill did the same thing when preparing for 2015’s The Force Awakens and again for The Last Jedi. Williams could be just making lifestyle choices, but the timing is a little close to the production start of Star Wars 9, which is reportedly going to start in July.

(8) FOLLOW ME BOYS. Jon Del Arroz told his 12 donors he is abandoning Patreon and shifting his efforts to Freestrtr after the site banned Faith Goldy for hate speech. He told his blog readers it’ll be a sacrifice for him: “Supporting Faith Goldy – I Disassociate With Censoring Site Patreon” [Internet Archive].

It will be a financial hit for the short term. When moving platforms like this, usually only 80% of people make their way over, and freestrtr takes a bit more of a percentage than Patreon, but its time to make a change, and time to disassociate with companies that would gladly deplatform people like me.

He has 10 Freestrtr donors as of this writing, which puts his 80% estimate spot on.

(9) PAID REVIEWS ON AMAZON. In the April 24 Washington Post, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg report on the vast number of paid reviews still on Amazon, although the reviews are now for products rather than books.  The Post found that 58 percent of the reviews for Bluetooth speakers and 67 percent for testosterone supplements were from paid endorsers.

(10) NO CONCERN OF CERN. Next time you’re in Meyrin, Switzerland, Atlas Obscura advises you to pay homage to the “Birthplace of the Web”.

It may look like any other hallway, but look closely and you’ll notice a historical plaque commemorating a monumental event in digital history: the birth of the web.

The World Wide Web was invented in 1989 by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee. The web, though omnipresent in the age of the internet, was originally meant to be a communication tool for scientists scattered at universities and other institutes around the world.

Berners-Lee was working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, when he developed the world’s first website. Though simple in appearance, this amazing technological feat revolutionized how we share and store information.

The first website was dedicated entirely to itself: a white page bearing nothing but typed hyperlinks. It described the WWW project, as well as core features of the web like how to set up a server and access documents. It was hosted on Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, which is still at CERN. In 1993, CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain.

Interestingly, Berners-Lee faced some pushback for his invention, as some at CERN believed it was a waste of resources and wasn’t part of the organization’s core mission. Now, however, the organization at least marks the corridor where the web was born.

(11) THE EDITORIAL PROCESS. Kim Huett did a clean scan of this illo from Science-Fiction Times V12 #278 (September 1957) (which also is online at Fanac.org) and wrote a short introduction. Huett says —

I expect the artists among you will appreciate Kelly Freas’ depiction of the editorial process. The rest of you will hopefully enjoy Freas exploring his inner ATom (or is just me who sees a resemblance?)

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Steve Miller, Taral, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Stephen Burridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.

Pixel Scroll 4/28/18 The Great Emu-Scroll War Was Lost When The Pixels Attacked The Gazebo

Now, where were we when we were so rudely interrupted?

(1) INFURNITY. Camestros Felapton, the world’s most understanding cat owner, provides his pet with “Tim’s Facial Hair Guide to Infinity War”.

So, I’ve explained before that Timothy doesn’t distinguish human faces well. He is also confused by facial hair. OK strictly speaking he is confused by human skin, which he assumes is fur and hence is doubly confused by facial hair which he thinks is fur that is growing out of fur. Look, the main thing is he finds beards confusing and panics if I shave.

So, Marvel’s Infinity War has many characters and about 40%+ of them have facial hair (90%+ if we count eyebrows – do eyebrows count as facial hair? I assume so.) Some of them i.e. Captain America have gained beards for this film.

So to assist Tim to keep track, here is a field guide to various beard styles in the film….

(2) PUBLIC ASKED FOR PODCAST NOMINATIONS. The Parsec Awards Steering Committee is accepting nominations of podcasts for the 2018 Parsec Awards through June 15. Nominate here.


Any material released between May 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018 is eligible for the 2018 awards. Material released needs to be free for download and released via a mechanism that allows for subscriptions. Thus, YouTube, Facebook, etc.. series are eligible.

If you are a podcaster or author, please feel free to nominate your own podcast or story

 

(3) MORE STAR WARS. Disney announced “Star Wars Resistance, Anime-Inspired Series, Set for Fall Debut”. The series is set in the era before The Force Awakens.

StarWars.com is thrilled to announce that production has begun on Star Wars Resistance, an exciting new animated adventure series about Kazuda Xiono, a young pilot recruited by the Resistance and tasked with a top-secret mission to spy on the growing threat of the First Order. It will premiere this fall on Disney Channel in the U.S. and thereafter, on Disney XD and around the world.

(4) BROADDUS JOINS APEX. Maurice Broaddus has been named nonfiction editor for Apex Magazine. Jason Sizemore, Editor-in-Chief, made the announcement April 2.

Maurice is a prolific and well-regarded author who works in a multitude of genres. He is also the Apex Magazine reprints editor and now wears two hats for our publication. Upcoming authors Maurice has lined up for essays include Mur Lafferty, Mary SanGiovanni, and Tobias S. Buckell.

You can find Maurice Broaddus on Twitter at @mauricebroaddus and online at www.mauricebroaddus.com. His novella “Buffalo Soldiers” was recently published at Tor.com.

(5) SWANWICK CITES LE GUIN ON PRESENT TENSE: Michael Swanwick would be authority enough for many, but first he appeals for support to “Le Guin on Present Tense” before handing down the stone tablets:

Here’s the rule, and it covers all cases: Only use the present tense if there is some reason for doing so that justifies losing some of your readers and annoying others. (This rule goes double for future tense.) Otherwise, use the past tense.

(6) THINGS FALL APART; THE CENTRE CANNOT HOLD: Aalto University reports 2.7 billion tweets confirm: echo chambers in Twitter are very real.

Bipartisan users, who try to bridge the echo chambers, pay a price for their work: they become less central in their network, lose connections to their communities and receive less endorsements from others.

(7) STARTING OUT AS A WOMAN SFF AUTHOR. From Fantasy Café: “Women in SF&F Month: Ann Aguirre”:

…I first sold to New York in 2007, over eleven years ago. That book was Grimspace, a story I wrote largely to please myself because it was hard for me to find the sort of science fiction that I wanted to read. I love space opera, but in the past, I found that movies and television delivered more of the stories I enjoyed. At the time, I was super excited to be published in science fiction and fantasy.

My first professional appearance was scheduled at a small con in Alabama. I was so excited for that, so fresh and full of hope. Let’s just say that my dreams were dashed quite spectacularly. I was sexually harassed by multiple colleagues and the men I encountered seemed to think I existed to serve them. To say that my work wasn’t taken seriously is an understatement. That was only reinforced when I made my first appearance at SDCC (San Diego Comic Con) six months later.

There, the moderator called me the ‘token female’, mispronounced my last name without checking with me first (she checked with the male author seated next to me), and the male panelists spoke over me, interrupted me at will, and gave me very little chance to speak. I remember quite clearly how humiliated I was, while also hoping that it wasn’t noticeable to the audience.

Dear Reader, it was very noticeable. Afterward, David Brin, who was in the audience, came up to me with a sympathetic look and he made a point of shaking my hand. He said, “Well, I was very interested in what you had to say.” With a pointed stress on the word “I.”…

(8) WTF? Can you believe somebody is comparing what they’re marketing to “The Veldt” as if it’s a good thing? “Madison Square Garden cites Ray Bradbury as an influence on upcoming Sphere Arena in Las Vegas”.

Madison Square Garden officials lifted the curtain a bit on their MSG Sphere Arena entertainment venues coming to Las Vegas and London, with a demonstration Thursday that hinted at advanced technology going into the design and experiences for audiences within the new-generation venues.

In his presentation at the Forum in Inglewood, which his company rejuvenated in 2014 with a $100-million face and body lift, Madison Square Garden Co. chairman James L. Dolan cited a short story from science-fiction author and futurist Ray Bradbury’s 1951 anthology “The Illustrated Man” as something of a spiritual model for the new facilities.

In particular, he referenced Bradbury’s story “The Veldt,” which centered on a high-tech room of the future, called the “liquid crystal room,” which could synthesize any environment in which children desired to play or explore.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 28, 2007 — Ashes of actor James Doohan and of Apollo 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper soared into space aboard a rocket.

(10) SIXTY-THREE. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus takes his monthly whack at my favorite-in-the-Sixties prozine: “[April 27, 1963] Built to Last?  (May 1963 Analog)”.

If this trend continues, we can assume that our children and grandchildren will not only have Burroughs, Wells, Verne, Shelley, and Baum to read, but also reprinted copies of our present-day science fiction, as well as the SF of the future (their present).  Perhaps they’ll all be available via some computerized library — tens of thousands of volumes in a breadbox-shaped device, for instance.

The question, then, is whether or not our children will remember our current era fondly enough to want reprints from it.  Well, if this month’s Analog be a representative sample, the answer is a definitive…maybe.

(11) HORTON ON HUGOS. Catching up with Rich Horton’s commentaries about the 2018 Hugo nominees and who he’s voting for.

My views here are fairly simple. It’s a decent shortlist, but a bifurcated one. There are three nominees that are neck and neck in my view, all first-rate stories and well worth a Hugo. And there are three that are OK, but not special – in my view not Hugo-worthy (but not so obviously unworthy that I will vote them below No Award.)…

This is really a very strong shortlist. The strongest shortlist in years and years, I’d say. Two are stories I nominated, and two more were on my personal shortlist of stories I considered nominating. The other two stories are solid work, though without quite the little bit extra I want in an award winner….

This is by no means a bad shortlist. Every story on it is at least pretty decent. …

(12) SIPPING TIME. Charles Payseur finds stories with reasons for the season: “Quick Sips – Fireside Magazine April 2018”.

Spring might finally be arriving, and at Fireside Magazine that means the stories are about rebirth and new beginnings, even as they’re about decay and endings. For me, at least, spring always brings to mind thaw. A thawing of the world after the long freeze of winter. Which means new growth, new green, but also means revealing all the death that the snow concealed. The roadkill, the rot, the dead leaves not yet turned to mulch. And these stories find characters at this point, seeing all around them the evidence of death and pain, and having to make the decision to also see the life. To see the good, and to try and foster that good, to help it grow. These are stories that show people pushing back against the pressure to die, to be silent, and embrace a future full of the possibility of failure, yes, but also full of the hope of success. To the reviews!

(13) GENIUSES AT WORK. Nine letters from the 1940s by Freeman Dyson show “Another Side of Feynman” at Nautilus.

l through a long life I had three main concerns, with a clear order of priority. Family came first, friends second, and work third.”

So writes the pioneering theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson in the introduction to his newly published collection of letters, Maker of Patterns. Spanning about four decades, the collection presents a first-person glimpse into a life that witnessed epochal changes both in world history and in physics.

Here, we present short excerpts from nine of Dyson’s letters, with a focus on his relationship with the physicist Richard Feynman. Dyson and Feynman had both professional and personal bonds: Dyson helped interpret and draw attention to Feynman’s work—which went on to earn a Nobel Prize—and the two men traveled together and worked side by side.

Taken together, these letters present a unique perspective of each man. Feynman’s effervescent energy comes through, as does Dyson’s modesty and deep admiration for his colleague.

(14) ADVANCED TRAINING. Did MZW graduate from this course?

(15) EJECT. Yes, this is me: I sometime I feel like I have finished delivering the info yet haven’t figured out how to end the sentence. “Your Speech Is Packed With Misunderstood, Unconscious Messages” at Nautilus.

Imagine standing up to give a speech in front of a critical audience. As you do your best to wax eloquent, someone in the room uses a clicker to conspicuously count your every stumble, hesitation, um and uh; once you’ve finished, this person loudly announces how many of these blemishes have marred your presentation.

This is exactly the tactic used by the Toastmasters public-speaking club, in which a designated “Ah Counter” is charged with tallying up the speaker’s slip-ups as part of the training regimen. The goal is total eradication. The club’s punitive measures may be extreme, but they reflect the folk wisdom that ums and uhs betray a speaker as weak, nervous, ignorant, and sloppy, and should be avoided at all costs, even in spontaneous conversation.

Many scientists, though, think that our cultural fixation with stamping out what they call “disfluencies” is deeply misguided. Saying um is no character flaw, but an organic feature of speech; far from distracting listeners, there’s evidence that it focuses their attention in ways that enhance comprehension.

Disfluencies arise mainly because of the time pressures inherent in speaking. Speakers don’t pre-plan an entire sentence and then mentally press “play” to begin unspooling it. If they did, they’d probably need to pause for several seconds between each sentence as they assembled it, and it’s doubtful that they could hold a long, complex sentence in working memory. Instead, speakers talk and think at the same time, launching into speech with only a vague sense of how the sentence will unfold, taking it on faith that by the time they’ve finished uttering the earlier portions of the sentence, they’ll have worked out exactly what to say in the later portions.

(16) A MARCH IN MAY. Naomi Kritzer tweeted photos from a Mayday parade – including a notorious purple cat (who may or may not be named Timothy!…) Jump on the thread here:

(17) WHAT’S THAT SMELL. BBC tells how “Sentinel tracks ships’ dirty emissions from orbit” — unclear they’re picking up individual polluters yet, but that could come.

Sentinel-5P was launched in October last year and this week completed its in-orbit commissioning phase.

But already it is clear the satellite’s data will be transformative.

This latest image reveals the trail of nitrogen dioxide left in the air as ships move in and out of the Mediterranean Sea.

The “highway” that the vessels use to navigate the Strait of Gibraltar is easily discerned by S5P’s Tropomi instrument.

(18) EGGING THEM ON. Did anybody see this coming? “Chicken Run 2: Sequel confirmed after 18-year wait”.

The Oscar-winning animation studio hasn’t set a release date yet. Its announcement comes 18 years after the original flew onto the big screen.

Chicken Run is the highest-grossing stop-motion animation film of all-time – banking £161.3m at the box office.

 

(19) HOLD THE BACON. On the other hand, don’t expect to see this anytime soon: Hollywood Reporter headline: ““Tremors’ Reboot Starring Kevin Bacon Dead at Syfy”

Here’s a headline you don’t read every day: A TV reboot of a feature film toplined by the original star is not moving forward.

Syfy has opted to pass on its TV follow-up to 1990 feature film Tremors, starring Kevin Bacon.

…Bacon broke the news himself, writing on his verified Instagram page that he was “[s]ad to report that my dream of revisiting the world of Perfection will not become a reality. Although we made a fantastic pilot (IMHO) the network has decided not to move forward. Thanks to our killer cast and everyone behind the scenes who worked so hard. And always keep one eye out for GRABOIDS!”

(20) CHESLEYS. Here is the Association for Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) “2018 Chesley Award Suggestions List (for 2017 Works)”. The members have finished making nominations and ASFA says the finalists will be posted in a few weeks.

(21). UNSUSPECTED GOLDMINE. American news infamously neglects most countries of the world, but who knew there were big sf doings in Bulgaria? At Aeon, Victor Petrov discusses “Communist robot dreams”.

The police report would have baffled the most grizzled detective. A famous writer murdered in a South Dakota restaurant full of diners; the murder weapon – a simple hug. A murderer with no motive, and one who seemed genuinely distraught at what he had done. You will not find this strange murder case in the crime pages of a local US newspaper, however, but in a Bulgarian science-fiction story from the early 1980s. The explanation thus also becomes more logical: the killer was a robot.

The genre was flourishing in small Bulgaria in the last two decades of socialism, and the country became the biggest producer of robotic laws per capita, supplementing Isaac Asimov’s famous three with two more canon rules – and 96 satirical ones. Writers such as Nikola Kesarovski (who wrote the above murder mystery) and Lyuben Dilov grappled with questions of the boundaries between man and machine, brain and computer. The anxieties of their literature in this period reflected a society preoccupied with technology and cybernetics, an unlikely bastion of the information society that arose on both sides of the Iron Curtain from the 1970s onwards.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Jason, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day johnstick.]

From Philly with Fantasy: NYRSF Readings Feature Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, October 3, 2017, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series continued its newly-opened 27th Season with the phenomenal line-up of  Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick (a “dynamic duo”) at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn.

The evening opened, as ever, with producer and executive curator Jim Freund (and host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf) sounding his duck call (inherited from Simon Loekle) and welcoming the audience, reminding those who can to donate to the Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away for not kicking in), and announcing future readers:

Tuesday, November 7th (Election Day), the readers will be S.A. Chakraborty and a second writer to be named;

Tuesday, December 5th will be a musical event – an “SFF: Singing Friends Fest” – featuring Sarah Pinsker and Catherynne M. Valente, among others, “pro sf writers doing music.”

He continued into 2018 (of note, there will be special evenings memorializing Ama Patterson and Thomas M. Disch), then heralded that on Monday, October 16, 3-5 p.m. (that’s “p.m.” with a “p,” not quite “the Hour of the Wolf;” one hopes that Jim’s listeners can stay up that late) on WBAI (99.5 FM), he would be celebrating (5 months late) his 50th anniversary at WBAI. (It’s also the 50th anniversary of the production of Samuel R. Delany’s The Star-Pit.)

He concluded by thanking House Manager (and Nebula finalist) Barbara Krasnoff, Tech Director Terence Taylor (who was not present, but managing things remotely), “the roadie” Madeline Flieger, and the Brooklyn Commons Café.

Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick, the evening’s first reader, is the author of ten novels, including Vacuum FlowersStations of the TideThe Iron Dragon’s DaughterJack FaustBones of the EarthThe Dragons of BabelDancing With BearsChasing the Phoenix, and the forthcoming The Iron Dragon’s Mother; and roughly 150 stories, many of which have been reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies. Notable among his non-fiction is Being Gardner Dozois, a book-length interview. Since his first story was published in 1980, Swanwick has been honored with the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon and World Fantasy Awards, and received a Hugo Award for fiction in an unprecedented five out of six years.  (He also has “the pleasant distinction of having lost more major awards than any other science fiction writer,” making him, as an audience member suggested, “the Susan Lucci of SF.”) Last year he was Guest of Honor at MidAmeriCon II, the 2016 World Science Fiction Convention. (He was also, by the way, Writer GoH at Lunacon 2005.)

Swanwick’s selection was the third chapter, and a paragraph or so into the fourth, of The Iron Dragon’s Mother, which completes a fantasy trilogy begun almost 25 years ago. (One novel is a novel, he observed; “two is an uncompleted trilogy.”) He began with an apology; for the first time ever since he’s been reading his work in public, he forgot to bring the text. Instead, he read a copy that he had e-mailed himself off a borrowed laptop. (It worked out fine.) In it, he introduces a new character, Caitlin, the half-elven bastard daughter of the Lord of House Sans Merci, who has returned home to see her dying father, to a family that’s magically dysfunctional. (Dinner was a poisonous spider.) More troubles await her when she returns to her base, he hinted.

During the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who donated), with the prizes being copies of a not-yet-published book by Robert Silverberg, and a copy of Being Gardner Dozois.

Gardner Dozois

It’s been a while since Gardner Dozois has done a NYRSF Reading, said Freund, in his introduction; he and Swanwick were among the Series’ first readers. Dozois was, of course, the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine for almost 20 years. He has won the Hugo Award as the year’s Best Editor 15 times and the Locus Award 31 times (including an unprecedented 16 times in a row), and the Nebula Award twice, as well as a Sidewise Award for his own short fiction (which has been most recently collected in When the Great Days Come). He is the author or editor of more than a hundred books, including a novel written in collaboration with George R.R. Martin and Daniel Abraham, Hunter’s Run, many solo anthologies, among them the annual series The Year’s Best Science Fiction (which has won the Locus Award for Best Anthology – more than any other anthology series in history), as well as a number of anthologies co-edited with GRRM. (Martin, he mused, has vanished from the scene, “disappeared into television – Beauty and the Beast?”) He has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and won the Skylark Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction. Born in Salem, Massachusetts (somehow he evaded the Witch Trials), he now lives in Philadelphia (as does Swanwick).

Dozois remarked that he had stopped writing fiction years ago, “until recently, when ideas began popping into my head.” He offered two short pieces, the first of which was “Neanderthals” (which he pronounced correctly, with a “t” rather than, as commonly done, a “th”). An assassin on the moon to kill the head of a clandestine drug operation faces a Neanderthal bodyguard. Here (as similarly in Robert J. Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax Trilogy) they are not “lumbering brutes,” but quick-moving and our intellectual equals. Were they brought by time machine (and is the assassin a time traveler) or created by genetic manipulation (they weren’t wiped out, but survive genetically “in our blood”)? In the second story, “Watchman,” a dead man is reawakened – and not for the first time – for a mission, to slay a dragon; the dragon (if it is indeed one) is in the semblance of a harmless-looking old man making breakfast. Dozois concluded by plugging his new solo fantasy anthology, The Book of Swords.

The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a small assortment of books. The audience of about 40 included Melissa C. Beckman (who, as usual, photographed the event), Madeline Flieger, Amy Goldschlager, Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Gordon Linzner, Marianne Porter, Mark W. Richards, Ian Randal Strock, and Alex Whitaker.

Throughout the evening and afterward, the readers and some audience members enjoyed the Café’s fare. (Regrettably, the downside of the venue was noise, most disturbingly loud voices, coming from the Café.)

For those unable to have attended (and who lack access to a time machine), the events were captured on Livestream.

Pixel Scroll 5/18/17 For I Am A Bear Of Very Little Files, And Long Scrolls Bother Me

(1) NO NEED TO SAY MORE. Michael Swanwick recounts what he labels the shortest and most succinct discussion about the horror genre in the history of the speculative fiction community:

MICHAEL SWANWICK: “I don’t like horror because it scares me.”

ELLEN DATLOW: “That’s why I love it.”

(2) A FINE ROMANCE. Welcome to 21st-century dating. “This Man Is Suing His Date For Texting During ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy'”.

Texting during a movie is rude.

Brandon Vezmar from Texas is taking a stance on the issue by suing his Bumble date after she used her phone during a movie. The Austin American-Statesman reported that Vezmar filed a small court claim for $17.31, the price of a 3D showing of “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”

“It was kind of a first date from hell,” he told the local newspaper.

The 36-year-old said that his date was on her phone “at least 10-20 times in 15 minutes to read and send text messages.” According to Vezmar, he told her she should text outside, so she left and took the car in which they both arrived.

Ouch.

Vezmar claimed he tried to text and call his date before taking the matter to court. He tweeted a screenshot once his date sent a statement to KVUE anonymously to say that, while she felt bad that his feelings were hurt, she chose to leave because he made her feel unsafe.

“His behavior made me extremely uncomfortable, and I felt I needed to remove myself from the situation for my own safety,” the statement read. “He has escalated the situation far past what any mentally healthy person would.”

Director James Gunn, who might have stayed safely out of this, unfortunately decided to show his ass, as if texting in the theater was the entire issue.

(3) TRAILER PARK. Aziz H. Poonawalla goes into deep analysis about the Star Trek: Discovery trailer.

But really, hairless Klingons? With a H.R. Geiger armor aesthetic?

It’s not like we haven’t seen the 60’s aesthetic embraced by modern television. Deep Space Nine went there and did it brilliantly — they arguably made the TOS USS Enterprise look even more gorgeous than any of her successors, and they didn’t change anything about her at all — just lighting and texture. Enterprise itself managed to authentically portray a pre-Kirk technology chic that had a more industrial feel, which was utterly believable as the ancestor to the softened look of the Kirk era. I do not accept that the Kelvinization of the Prime timeline was necessary to modernize the production. After all, the aesthetic of The Expanse and Dark Matter is thoroughly modern but doesn’t have the same Kelvin fascination with chrome and glass. Not that I want any Trek to go the grunge-fi look, but I do at least want Trek to honor it’s own identity. This feels like a rejection — purely a Han shot first decision.

(4) MESSAGE TO THE PAST. If the term “calendrical rot” hadn’t been invented for a different purpose, and we had a way to send it into the past, it would find the perfect Petri dish in this incredibly technical discussion of alternate timelines in Star Trek held on Reddit in 2015.

(5) SASQUATCH APPROPRIATED. In the Walrus, Robert Jago introduces his op-ed about Canada’s latest cultural appropriation controversy with an sff illustration: “On Cultural Appropriation, Canadians Are Hypocrites”.

Harry and the Hendersons is a 1987 fantasy movie about a Seattle family’s encounter with a friendly bigfoot (Harry) and their efforts to protect him from harm before releasing him in the mountains of the Pacific northwest. It’s a forgettable film, but it has undoubtedly been seen and heard in more Indigenous homes than has the story of Sasq’ets–the original sasquatch.

Sasq’ets, whose name was one of the few Halkomelem words to make their way into English, was one of a host of other legendary “wild people” living in the forests on the Pacific coast. For hundreds of generations, Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw children were raised on the stories of the wild people and taught to listen for their characteristic hu-hu-hu calls. Sasq’ets, along with Dzunuka, were said to capture wayward children, take them away from their families, and eat them. With their supernatural healing powers, the wild ones were thought to be invincible; only once was a wild person taken by angry villagers and burned alive. But to the mortals’ horror, the ashes began buzzing in a tiny chorus of little hu-hu-hu’s, and each particle sought out human flesh. This was the origin myth of mosquitos.

Sasq’ets taught our children to stay out of the forests at night. It connected us to our part of the world, in the same way that Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood connected Europeans to their ancient forests–and possibly for the same purposes. Our stories are works of genius and beauty, and vital to our relationship with the land. By no means do I want to restrict our legends to Indigenous people. I want you to know about Sasq’ets, and the psychedelically odd stories of the spirit of the South Winds, and all of the legends of our country.

But when the story is taken from us and told by outsiders without our involvement, its identity can be lost, and Sasq’ets becomes Bigfoot. The cultural dominance of non-Natives means that a B-movie like Harry and the Hendersons can have more influence over Salish children than the legend that inspired it.

(6) WESTLAKE’S BOND. Daniel Dern says be on the lookout for copies of Donald Westlake’s James Bond novel(ization) released last fall. “I’ve already just put a reserve-request in to my library.”

Forever And A Death

In the mid-1990s, prolific mystery and crime thriller author Donald E. Westlake submitted two treatments for the 18th Bond film (which would ultimately become ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’)….Never one to waste a good story, Westlake turned his treatments into a novel.

Dern adds:

Fewer Filers than normally expected might be familiar with Westlake, since he wrote near-zero scifi, by choice. OTOH, he wrote lots of great mystery/thriller/crime and other novels and stories, ranging from humorous, e.g. his John Dortmunder stories, and his tabloid-reporter ones, to serious, notably the ones written as Richard Stark.

See the Donald Westlake site.

My favorite Westlake book: Up Your Banners

(7) MACE WINDU GETS HIS OWN BOOK. The Jedi have always been the galaxy’s peacekeepers — but with the Clone Wars on the horizon, all that is about to change.

This August, writer Matt Owens (Elektra) will team with artist Denys Cowan (Nighthawk, Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers) to unveil the exciting story of one of the Jedi’s greatest warriors in STAR WARS: JEDI OF THE REPUBLIC — MACE WINDU #1!

One of the most accomplished and storied members of the Jedi High Council, his wisdom and combat prowess are legendary. Now, in this new story, readers will get to see Mace Windu lead his Jedi into battle, and face the ultimate test of leadership!

(8) PETER OLSON OBIT. SF Site News reports that Boston area fan Peter Olson (1949-2017) died April 28. He was active in NESFA and participated in the Ig Nobel Awards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born May 18 — R. Laurraine Tutihasi
  • Born May 18 — Diane Duane

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 18, 1897 — Frank Capra

(11) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian says Ziggy has a point.

(12) WHIP OUT YOUR ROLL OF HUNDREDS. Nicole Pelletier on Good Morning America has a piece called “Classic Disney animation art featuring Snow White, Pinocchio headed to auction” about how a tranche of Disney cels from the 1940s is headed for auction in an event sponsored by Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies.

Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will present the movie memorabilia auction, “An Important Animation Art Collection, The Property of a Gentleman” in New York City on June 5.

The sale will feature more than 290 original Disney animation drawings, storyboards, posters, concept art and celluloids, according to Bonhams’ press release.

(13) WARNING LABEL. While I was browsing Bertie MacAvoy’s Amazon page, I especially enjoyed this self-introduction:

Robert A.MacAvoy

If you are young to the S.F. field and don’t know who I am, I will prep you by warning that I often kill off my heroes, sometimes at the most unexpected times. But never in a depressing manner. I’ve never wanted to depress my readers. My outlook is essentially comic.

(14) DRYING OFF. This may be the first good news I’ve ever heard about a convention associated with the Ozarks. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn reports how some fans are overcoming a natural disaster: “West Plains, MO Based Oz-Con Plans Game Day Event to Make Up For Canceled Day of Con”.

I think any reasonable person would forgive the con, considering this was an extreme, unpredictable situation where homes and lives were literally lost. What’s the Sunday of a con compared to that? To the extreme credit of the Oz-Con organizers though, they still want to try to make it right.

Yesterday Oz-Con organizers announced an event they’re calling “Flood Con.” It’s a free game day the con is hosting from 9:00am until 10:00pm on June 17th at the Missouri State University-West Plains Student Rec Center. Admission is free, but they’ll also be accepting cash donations and canned food items to help with ongoing flood relief in the area. There will be video games, tabletop games, and fellow geeks to have a grand old time with.

Admittedly, I haven’t heard much about sff in the Ozarks — just that famous story about the time Larry Niven arrived expecting to be GoH of Ozarkon only to find out the con had been cancelled. (Fans involve swear they tried to get a message to him, but in those pre-internet days it failed to reach him on the road.)

(15) FAME IN PIXELS. Who needs a monument when you can be an answer on Jeopardy!

(16) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY TO TV. Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros Television are teaming on Lovecraft Country, a one-hour drama that has been given a straight-to-series order by HBO.

There is connective tissue to Peele’s breakout genre feature Get Out, which brought a Black Lives Matter theme to the horror genre. Lovecraft Country, the 2016 novel from Matt Ruff, focuses on 25-year-old Atticus Black. After his father goes missing, Black joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America to find him. This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the malevolent spirits that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback. The goal is an anthological horror series that reclaims genre storytelling from the African-American perspective.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, JJ, Dawn Incognito, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Hot Serial:  NYRSF Readings Series Presents an Evening with Serial Box Authors

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

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.)

Lindsay Smith

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.

Matthew Cody

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

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.

Michael Swanwick On His (Many) Short Story Collections

By Carl Slaughter: In exclusive for File 770, to celebrate the publication of Not So Much, Said the Cat, which came out this summer, Michael Swanwick gives us the inside story on his collections.

(The Dog Said Bow WowHello, Said the StickNot So Much, Said the Cat.  Anyone else see a pattern?)

GRAVITY’S ANGELS
Sauk City: Arkham House, 1991

swanwick-gravitys-angels

Thirteen stories:

  • A Midwinter’s Tale
  • The Feast of Saint Janis
  • The Blind Minotaur
  • The Transmigration of Philip K.
  • Covenant of Souls
  • The Dragon Line
  • Mummer Kiss
  • Trojan Horse
  • Snow Angels
  • The Man Who Met Picasso
  • Foresight
  • Ginungagap
  • The Edge of the World

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Five of these stories were Nebula Nominees. One was a World Fantasy Award Nominee. One won the Asimov’s Readers Award. And one won the Theodore Sturgeon Award and was nominated for the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

This was my first collection. Jim Turner, the editor at Arkham House at that time, called me up out of the blue one day, wanting to assemble a collection. I’d been publishing stories for a decade by then and we both agreed on which were the best, so the editing was easy. Jim was one of my favorite people. He’d begin a phone conversation by saying, “Listen, Swanwick, I don’t have time for any of your nonsense. I just need a question answered and that’s the end of it.”

“Hello, Jim. It’s good to hear from you,” I’d say. And with a harmless bit of gossip here and a comment about a hot new story there, I could keep him on the phone for hours. There aren’t many people I’d want to keep on the phone for hours, but he was right at the top of the list.

Jim’s original idea for the cover was to use Picasso’s Guernica as a wrap-around. But when he looked into it, the proportions were wrong. “I’d have to crop it to make it work,” he told me over the phone, “and you can’t cut up a great work of art!”

I will be grateful to my dying day that I resisted the urge to say, “Oh, go ahead, Jim.”

A GEOGRAPHY OF UNKNOWN LANDS
Lemoyne, PA: Tigereyes Press, 1997

swanwick-geography

Six stories:

  • Introduction: The Wireless Folly
  • Mother Grasshopper
  • North of Diddy-Wah-Diddy
  • The Edge of the World
  • Radio Waves
  • The Changeling’s Tale

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Five of these stories hadn’t been collected before. Of those, two were nominated for the World fantasy Award. One of these won and was also nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Award. “The Wireless Folly,” which imagined the science fiction/fantasy/horror genre as a rambling building, constantly being added to, was written as an introduction to the volume. “Mother Grasshopper” also appeared for the first time in this volume.

One day, out of nowhere, my friend Chris Logan Edwards said he wanted to do a slim collection of my work. Slim, he said, to keep the price down so that people could buy it on impulse. I looked at my uncollected work and realized that the very best of it all happened on strange locales – a planet-sized grasshopper, a train passing through the borderlands of Hell, a tavern on an overbuilt medieval bridge, and my own neighborhood as seen from the afterlife. So I added the previously collected “The Edge of the World,” to bring it to length, and had a collection whose stories chimed nicely. One critic said that they were all about death, and that’s possible too.

Chris put together a beautiful volume with a particularly evocative cover by Lee Moyer. It was Tigereyes Press’s first publication and not only was it nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection, but it earned Chris a place on the World Fantasy Award ballot for Special Award, Non-Professional, as well. Not bad for his first book.

PUCK ALESHIRE’S ABECEDARY
Pleasantville, NY: Dragon Press, 2000

swanwick-puck

Twenty-seven stories:

  • A is for Albany (to) Z is for Zothique, (plus) 120 is for Issues

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Sometime in my first two decades as a published writer, I acquired a facility for writing flash fiction. I wrote a series of twenty-seven stories, one for each letter of the alphabet, plus one marking the magazine’s tenth anniversary, and sold them to The New York Review of Science Fiction for, as I recall, five dollars a pop. The money was nothing, but I’d written them for fun, so that didn’t matter.

David Hartwell, editor and founder of NYRSF, suggested that his Dragon Press collect the stories as a chapbook. The editing and illustration was done by Kathryn Cramer. This was an old school publication – sturdy, handsome, and economical – as suited David and Kathryn’s fannish streaks.

I don’t have any anecdotes about this one, but it made me happy and that will have to suffice.

MOON DOGS
Ann A. Broomhead and Timothy P. Szczesuil, eds., Framingham, MA: NESFA Press, 2000.

swanwick-moon-dogs

Eight stories and seven articles:

  • Moon Dogs HN NN
  • The Death of the Magus: Two Myths (article)
  • Mickelrede by Michael Swanwick and Avram Davidson
  • Vergil Magus: King Without Country by Michael Swanwick and Avram Davidson
  • Jane Swanwick and the Search for Identity (article)
  • The Hagiography of Saint Dozois (article)
  • Ancestral Voices by Michael Swanwick and Gardner Dozois
  • The City of God by Michael Swanwick and Gardner Dozois
  • The Dead
  • They Fell Like Wheat (article)
  • A User’s Guide to the Postmoderns (article)
  • Ships by Michael Swanwick and Jack Dann
  • In the Tradition… (article)
  • Growing Up in the Future (article)
  • Griffin’s Egg

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Two stories were nominated for the Nebula Award and three, including “Moon Dogs” (which was one of two stories original to this collection) were nominated for the Hugo. The introduction was by Gardner Dozois.

The New England Science Fiction Society has a pleasant tradition of creating a book, usually a collection, each year for the guest of honor at Boskone, Boston’s venerable science fiction convention. This presented a problem for me because I’d already contracted for what was by now my traditional collection-per-decade. Editors Ann Broomhead and Tim Szczesuil convinced me that by including non-fiction and some of the best of the collaborative fiction I’d written over the years, we could assemble a worthwhile book.

While there are some upbeat works in the collection (my posthumous collaboration – “Over my dead body,” I can hear his spirit growl – with Avram Davidson, “Vergil Magus: King Without Country,” is a hoot), the mood of the fiction is, overall, darker than usual for me. I have no idea why I didn’t include “Dogfight,” my collaboration with William Gibson, unless it’s that I didn’t want to look like I was trying to ride on his coattails.

During the convention, I was hobbling around on a cane, the result of a fall down the stairs and a broken toe, waving the book about and telling everybody that it was only one of three collections I had out that year.

“You know,” Marianne Porter, my wife, said, “you’ve got the makings of good murder mystery here.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Tomorrow morning, when you’re found beaten to death with your own cane and the detective asks who at the convention would have a motive for killing you, every writer here is going to raise a hand.”

Rick Berry, the artist guest of honor, created a beautiful illustration for the cover.

TALES OF OLD EARTH
San Francisco: Frog Ltd., 2000, 2002

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Nineteen stories:

  • The Very Pulse of the Machine
  • The Dead
  • Scherzo with Tyrannosaur
  • Ancient Engines
  • North of Diddy-Wah-Diddy
  • The Mask
  • Mother Grasshopper
  • Riding the Giganotosaur
  • Wild Minds
  • The Raggle Taggle Gypsy-o
  • Microcosmic Dog
  • In Concert
  • Radiant Doors
  • Ice Age
  • Walking Out
  • The Changeling’s Tale
  • Midnight Express
  • The Wisdom of Old Earth
  • Radio Waves

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Of these nineteen stories, fifteen were never collected before. The previously uncollected stories garnered three Nebula nominations, three Hugo nominations, two Sturgeon Award nominations, a World Fantasy Award nomination, an Asimov’s Reader’s Award, and two Hugo Awards. The introduction was by Bruce Sterling.

This collection was a collaboration between Frog, Ltd., an imprint of North Atlantic Books, and Tachyon Publications. It was my second major collection, gathering together all my best stories of the prior decade.

This book began my professional association with Jacob Weisman, who quickly became a good friend. Such good friends that, some years later, Marianne and I flew to San Francisco to attend Jacob’s wedding to his wife Rina. So now we have two good friends (at least) at Tachyon.

CIGAR-BOX FAUST
San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2003.

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Ten stories (or more, depending on how you count them):

  • Cigar-Box Faust
  • Writing in My Sleep
  • An Abecedary of the Imagination
  • Eight Takes on Kindred Themes
  • Picasso Deconstructed: Eleven Still-Lifes
  • Brief Essays
  • Archaic Planets
  • The Mask
  • Letters to the Editor
  • The Madness of Gordon Van Gelder

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Cigar-Box Faust gathers together pretty much all my flash fiction written to that point, save for the 26 short-shorts in Puck Aleshire’s Abecedary. The title piece was a short drama written in one day for a cigar-box theater and a cast made up of a cigar cutter, a box of matches and, in the title role, the cigar itself.

Marianne came home from work that day and asked, “What’s new?” I sat her down at the kitchen table, placed the cigar box between us, and said, “Watch.

MICHAEL SWANWICK’S FIELD GUIDE TO THE MESOZOIC MEGAFAUNA
San Francisco, Tachyon Publications, 2004.

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Fourteen (or eighteen, depending on how you count them) stories:

  • flash fiction
  • The Thief of Time
  • A Matter of Size
  • Three Conversations
  • How the West Was Won II
  • The Scientific Method
  • Dueling Mosasaurs
  • Pocket Brontosaurs
  • Herbivores
  • Parallels
  • Wusses
  • Dinosaur Music
  • The Bird-Fishers
  • Proving Dr. Tom’s Hypothesis
  • Five British Dinosaurs
  • Iguanodon anglicus
  • Yaverlandia bitholus
  • Altispinax dunkeri
  • Megalosaurus bucklandii
  • Craterosaurus pottonensis

MICHAEL SWANWICK: “I don’t think you understand how many genera of dinosaurs there are,” I replied when my editor at HarperCollins suggested that as a promotional device, I should write a brief story for every genus. But I was happy to write a goodly number, which were serialized on the Web to draw attention to my paleontology novel, Bones of the Earth.

Jacob Weisman, God bless him, liked the series, added “Five British Dinosaurs,” which had appeared in Interzone, and published them all in chapbook form with lovely illustrations by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

I had great fun including some of my pals in the paleontologist community in the fictions. Ralph Chapman got to see his Pachycephalosaurus theories tested in the wild. Bob Walters was stranded in the Campanian Age when a hadrosaur crushed his time machine. Tom Holtz got eaten by a tyrannosaur. And Tess Kissinger went for a midnight ride with Ray Harryhausen in a pair of robot theropods.

Never let it be said that I don’t know how to show my friends a good time.

THE PERIODIC TABLE OF SCIENCE FICTION
PS Publishing, 2005

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One hundred eighteen stories:

  • Hydrogen: The Hindenburg (to) Ununoctium: Now You See It Now You
  • Flash fiction, one story for every element in the Periodic Table. Introduction by Theodore Gray.

MICHAEL SWANWICK: For a couple of years in the early part of this century, I was publishing, in addition to my usual fiction, two stories a week online. For Eileen Gunn’s ezine The Infinite Matrix, I produced a series of stories, The Sleep of Reason, based on Goya’s Los Caprichos etchings. That was 80 stories for Eileen and 118 for Ellen. Writers used to turn pale and hold up crucifixes when I entered the room.

Peter Crowther, the founder of PS Publishing, liked my series based on the elements and reprinted it in a beautiful book which very quickly went out of print.

The Sleep of Reason hasn’t appeared in book form yet. If anybody is interested, I can think of the perfect illustrator for it – and his work is all in the public domain.

THE DOG SAID BOW-WOW
Tachyon Publications, 2007

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Sixteen stories:

  • ‘Hello,’ Said the Stick
  • A Great Day for Brontosaurs
  • A Small Room in Koboldtown
  • An Episode of Stardust
  • Dirty Little War
  • Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play
  • Legions of Time
  • Slow Life
  • The Bordello in Faerie
  • The Dog Said Bow-Wow
  • The Last Geek
  • The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport
  • The Skysailor’s Tale
  • Tin Marsh
  • Triceratops Summer
  • Urdumheim

MICHAEL SWANWICK: One story was nominated for the Nebula Award and four for the Hugo Award. Of those four, three won. Introduction by Terry Bisson.

My third decade collection arrived three years early. It was named after “The Dog Said Bow-Wow,” the first Darger & Surplus story and easily one of the most popular stories I ever wrote. At the time the collection came out, there were only three stories in the series, all of which were included. Someday there will be a full collection’s worth. But that day, alas, is not here yet.

THE BEST OF MICHAEL SWANWICK
(Subterranean Press), 2008

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  • The Feast of St. Janis
  • Ginungagap
  • Trojan Horse
  • A Midwinter’s Tale
  • The Edge of the World
  • Griffin’s Egg
  • The Changeling’s Tale
  • North of Diddy-Wah-Diddy
  • Radio Waves
  • The Dead
  • Mother Grasshopper
  • Radiant Doors
  • The Very Pulse of the Machine
  • Scherzo with Tyrannosaur
  • The Raggle Taggle Gypsy-O
  • The Dog Said Bow-Wow
  • Slow Life
  • Legions in Time
  • Triceratops Summer
  • From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled…

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Subterranean Press likes to put out career-summing “best of” volumes dedicated to people like Joe Haldeman, Lucius Shepard, Nancy Kress, Larry Niven… Pretty heady company to be numbered among. So when Bill Schafer asked me to join them, what else could I do but blush and nod?

This collection was not only beautifully made but large – so much so that it was a bit of a relief to discover that I didn’t have to include any of my weaker stories to fill it up.

Bill asked if I had any ideas for the cover artist should be and I immediately suggested Lee Moyer, who had done such a bright and witty job on A Geography of Imaginary Lands. When I saw the cover (which includes a half-hidden portrait of my hirsute self), I was glad I did.

I look forward to the day when I have enough new fiction to assemble The Second Best of Michael Swanwick.

Swanwick Sets the Frame for His Mongolian Wizard Series

Michael Swanwick in 2009. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Michael Swanwick in 2009. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

By Carl Slaughter: In an exclusive for File 770, Michael Swanwick provides plot details and author comments for his “Mongolian Wizard” series.  Tor has published 7 stories in the series and Swanwick plans 14 more.

Swanwick is on the verge of wrapping up his “Darger and Surplus” series.  He also has an anthology, Not So Much, Said the Cat, out in August.

First Story: “The Mongolian Wizard” by Michael Swanwick (Tor.com, 2012)

“Junior Lieutenant Franz-Karl Ritter is an officer in the Werewolf Corps, a variant of the K9 Corps, except that the men have wolves with which they share a mind link. Ritter is responsible for security at a conference of European wizards in Schloss Greiffenhorst on a snowy mountaintop in the Riphean Mountains. On the third day of the conclave, Sir Toby Willoughby-Quirke barrels into Ritter, knocking him flat, then politely introduces himself. Sir Toby soon sets up a military demonstration using a platoon of two-inch high toy soldiers, who march in formation and display their shooting abilities, then disappear into the walls of the castle, ostensibly to hunt down rats and mice. But the miniature soldiers aren’t what they seem to be, and neither is the boisterous Sir Toby.” –  Tadiana at GoodReads

Swanwick Comments: You should at least skim this story, because so many of the series’ ground rules are contained within it.

Second Story: “The Fire Gown” (Tor.com 2012)

The Mongolian Wizard has invaded Poland. Ritter and Sir Toby are called to Buckingham Palace to investigate the spontaneous combustion of Queen Titania when she donned a gown woven from salamander’s hair – an act meant to incapacitate King Oberon at the onset of war. Ritter meets the dressmaker’s daughter, the (his words) Jewess Shulamith Rosenberg. Together, they discover that her father has been murdered, and that the saboteur has left behind a box containing thousands of of plague fleas. Ritter deliberately ignites a bolt of salamander cloth to destroy them, expecting to die. He survives, thanks in part to actions by his new wolf, Freki. Shulamith, however, dies. When he has recovered enough to return to his empty apartment, he brings with him a crayon portrait of her, hangs it on the wall, and bursts into tears.

Swanwick Comments: Ritter, though he does not realize it, is a proto-Nazi who has had the good fortune not to fall under evil influences. His idealization of Ms Rosenberg is the first suggestion that he may grow out of his limitations and also a clue that he is unknowingly seeking love. The entire series chronicles his struggle to not lose his soul.

Third Story: “The Day of the Kraken” (Tor.com 2012)

Set during the Phony War. Mudlarks – children who scrounge in the tidal mud for scrap metal – witnessed and reported a chest deliberately sunk in the Thames. It contained kraken eggs which, when hatched, would render the port unusable. Though this was recovered, the saboteurs kidnapped five children, all girls, and the locales of these crimes form an inverted pentagram, suggesting they mean to perform human sacrifice. (Though magic works in this series, demonism does not.) Evidence had been left behind suggesting that the crimes were committed by Catholics – the saboteurs’ intent, obviously, is to cause religious strife.

Ritter and Freki tracked the saboteurs to an unused priory, but were captured. Held captive with the little girls, Ritter calmed them down by telling stories about Freki and getting them to pretend they too were wolves. Then, though it was strictly illegal, he entered the children’s minds and “launched his small wolves,snarling and biting straight at the throats of the three startled saboteurs.”

Understandably, the girls’ parents are outraged at how they were rescued, and Sir Toby scolds Ritter. Ritter “accidentally,” leaves some pasties where mudlarks will steal them.

Swanwick Comments: There is usually banter between Ritter and Sir Toby, who finds his stuffiness humorous. From this story, for example:

“I have an excellent sense of humor,” Ritter said indignantly.

“Have you really? I must remember to have you tell a joke someday in order to test this hypothesis.”

However, Sir Toby also feels that Ritter is insufficiently ruthless, and is constantly trying to mold him into a man without conscience. He is simultaneously a humanizing and a dehumanizing influence on Ritter.

Fourth Story: “House of Dreams” (Tor.com, 2013)

Two vagrants travel across Germany in bleakest winter. One asks questions which the second evades. Until finally Ritter puts together inconsistencies in the situation and forcibly awakens himself from a dream. He has been captured and is undergoing dream therapy by two of the Mongolian Wizard’s alienists. Through induced illusions, bit by bit, they gain information from him. But so far not the two things they desire most: The purpose of his mission and the identity of his traveling companion. So, unexpectedly, they release Ritter. He walks for hour after hour until finally, on the edge of exhaustion, he arrives at the farmhouse where he was being held captive. He has been shown that there is no hope. Later, he is given a vision of himself, back in London, killing Sir Toby, and realizes this is their ultimate intent.

He has only one advantage: Freki is still out in the cold, and they think him a man and not a wolf. Ritter calls Freki to him and takes advantage of the distraction to kill his tormentors.

Then he continues on to his meeting-place where, after a long wait in an open place as described in the play, his contact appears. Extending his hand, Ritter says, “The wizard Godot, I presume?”

Swanwick Comments: Commonly, a new psychic power is introduced in each story. This story is so far unique in not introducing a new magical creature.

This has been the most popular story of the series, I believe.

Fifth Story: “The Night of the Salamander” (Tor.com, 2015)

The Mongolian Wizard has invaded France. Fighting is fierce. On the eve of a battle, Ritter is at an aristocratic party when he is summoned by Sir Toby to the headquarters of Marechal de Camp Martel, who has been murdered and whose power is to instill absolute loyalty upon his troops and everyone he encounters. On impulse, he brings with him Lady Angelique de la Fontaine, a psychic surgeon with whom he had been flirting.

Working together, Ritter and Lady Angelique discover that, while indispensable to the French army, the Marechal was a loathsome human being, hated by the only three suspects: his valet, his aide, and his underage mistress. The murder, they find, was committed by his abused mistress who turned upon him. But before the others are released Ritter reveals that the valet is a creature of the Mongolian Wizard who will, if released, spread the news that the irresistible Marchal is dead. The aide is allowed to kill him and the battle the next morning will be fought by soldiers under the illusion that they are still led by a man who never loses.

Swanwick Comments: Many of the names in this series refer to classical fantasy. For example, de la Fontaine was the great French fantasist. In “The Phantom of the Maze,” Alice Hargreaves was the married name of Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

Freki is always an indispensable part of Ritter’s investigations, usually due to his superior range of senses, particularly smell, but occasionally as muscle. So there are in each story three indispensable characters: Ritter, Sir Toby, and Freki. Sir Toby’s part is usually small but always important.

Sixth Story: “The Pyramid of Krakow” (Tor.com, 2015)

A blind Swiss commercial traveler in chemicals comes to Krakow, accompanied by his seeing-eye wolf. Ritter, of course. He is shown the first pyramid of Krakow (more are to be built), atop which human sacrifices are made in great number in order to traumatize witnessing devotees into their potential powers. This is the source of the Mongolian Wizard’s seemingly endless supply of magicians. Ritter is identified as a spy but Kaska, a secretary, turns out to be a Polish freedom fighter. He sets fire to the Royal Palace and throws a young fool (exactly like his younger self but on the wrong side) to the enemy. Ultimately, he is saved from a witch-finder when Kaska feeds the man to the gargoyles.

When Sir Toby gets Ritter’s report, he receives it as moral permission to take actions he had previously considered too immoral to dangerous. The story ends on this unhappy premonition.

Swanwick Comments: Here I introduce the Holocaust into the mix. Ritter has been increasingly reluctant to play Sir Toby’s game. Now he sees here is no morally acceptable alternative. Yet he is aware of the evil he is agreeing to.

Though there is no romantic element to this story, Kaska will reappear. She and Angelique are to become Ritter’s two great loves. At least one of them will not survive the war.

The war begins as a conventional Napoleonic-era war and will conclude as something very like World War II.

Seventh Story: “The Phantom in the Maze” (Tor.com, 2015)

This is set in Bletchley Park, though the name never appears in the story. Young women work at scrying the future, drawing detailed diagrams of future weapons technology to be employed in the war. One of these women has been murdered at midnight at the center of the hedge maze on the day of her arrival. Since she knew no one there, Ritter is sent to discover if it is the work of saboteurs.

The murder turns out to be a crime of passion. The victim, Alice Hargreaves, arrived knowing she would have a passionate affair with the Director, a serial philanderer. She was killed by the Director’s current lover, who foresaw this affair. However, in the course of investigation strange things happen. A bird appears and disappears inside a closed room. Ritter has a discussion with the murdered woman. In a confrontation with the Director, the man is killed and then restored to life. The intensive alterations to the time frame have destabilized reality locally. It is entirely possible that over the long run it will destabilize reality throughout Europe.

Ritter promises to have the institute closed down. But the Director has foreseen this and produces a letter from Sir Toby saying it will not be. As Ritter leaves, a woman rides up on a horse:

“Hello,” she said. “My name is Alice Hargreaves.”

“I know who you are,” Ritter replied, “and I am afraid that there is nothing here for you.”

Swanwick Comments: This concludes the first third of the series (there should be 21 stories in all) and finishes establishing the ground rules. From this point on, the conflict will be a war pitting technology against magic.